Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Dying to Live: Exploring the Fear of an Unlived Life Using the Sociological Imagination

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Dying to Live: Exploring the Fear of an Unlived Life Using the Sociological Imagination

Article excerpt


I am not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of never really living. When I graduated from high school almost four years ago the world was mine for the taking. I was so excited to finally get out there on my own and LIVE. Next to my senior-year yearbook picture I included the quote by Henry David Thoreau which says, "Go confidently in the directions of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." It is interesting to me because when I look back on these last few years I do feel satisfied with my life, where I have been, what I have done, and who I am in the process of becoming. However, throughout this entire time I have had a fear that I will somehow waste my time; that I will come to the end of my life and regret how I lived. It is ironically this fear that sometimes holds me back from living the way I want to. I want to live freely, simply, with a spirit of adventure, traveling, helping and loving others along the way. These ideas of a full free life often clash with society's views and expectations of what constitutes a "successful" life. I think at the core of figuring out how to not waste my life is figuring out who I am, what I value and living freely according to that instead of living as I so often presently do with a mask on so that others approve.

Before I address the different way society influences what I do, I want to address this fear that I have. Louise DeSalvo, author of the book Writing as a Way of Healing, speaks to this fear of thwarted desires when she writes, "Desire. If we have always wanted to write--something, anything--and if we haven't, our desire won't dissipate ... Each time we think about our unenacted desire, we will feel thwarted, diminished, unfinished, incomplete" (33).

While my thwarted desires will not be in the context of writing, this idea applies to my desire to live fully. If I don't follow my deepest desires there will always be a nagging from within, leaving me with these feelings of fear of being unfinished and incomplete.


So how do I ensure that I will not waste my life? I will process this question throughout this paper by using my sociological imagination. This is a mindset which I can develop to enable myself to see society in different ways. C. Wright Mills explains this by saying that the "sociological imagination enables us to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two in society" (349). It is important, in order to grow, to examine your life. DeSalvo writes "Live an introspective life, and determine what authentic success means to you and what kind of life and interpersonal and social relationships best suit your temperament and talent" (99). A reflective practice that I have benefited from has been keeping journals and art sketchbooks for years to document my growth, ask questions, and record desires. Looking through these old journals I see that I have often struggled over the same questions and the problem of not wanting to waste my life. Yet there is a difference in how I processed those feelings then and how I am beginning to learn to process them now.

In the past I had thought that I was solely responsible if I did not live the life I imagine; I did not recognize that outside forces need to be taken into account as well. I still believe that I am responsible for my decisions, the sociological rational choice theory supports the idea that "people are rational and base their actions on what they perceive to be the most effective means to their goals ... this means constantly weigh ing alternative means to alternative ends and choosing between them" (303). This is a significant perspective because it recognizes that as decision makers we hold some power in the process of our lives. However, I would be seeing only part of the picture if I stopped here.


In the past I did not take into account the influence of societal pressures on my decisions. …

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