Proceeding with Caution

I recently celebrated my 24th birthday. I still remember when I only had ten of them behind me. My family took me out for our annual celebration of my birth. I don’t like giving or receiving gifts but I do like spending time with people so this is how every occasion is celebrated now. This was the best compromise for everyone after a very controversial Mother’s Day in 2012.

I do not like official holidays. Fuck Christmas. Fuck Thanksgiving. Fuck Valentine’s Day. Fuck Columbus Day. Fuck them all. Holidays have lost all meaning behind them.

Christmas is the biggest example of this to me. Christmas is supposed to be about peace, love, and caring for other people. But people get trampled to death so we can rush in and buy Christmas gifts on Black Friday.

I may hate Christmas, but I do allow myself to enjoy birthdays. It’s a thing to celebrate if you make it another year. Not everyone makes it to 24 like I have. I read a story the other day of a girl who had brain cancer and did not make it to 24. I can get behind birthdays and the celebration of life.

I couldn’t help but ponder on my 24th birthday, how many more of these birthdays am I going to have? Eventually something’s going to do me in. I’ve always thought it would be sort of stomach or colon cancer. I did not eat greens or fruits enough as a child. That’s going to catch up with me at some point. I try to eat spinach now but I still have this feeling that the damage has been done. But I expect that to happen in my mid 50s once I’m happy with where my life is going.

Since my birthday, I’ve had a morbid curiosity with what kills people at 24. I’ve had this need to know so I could better protect my fragile life. I only get the one so might as well know what could take it away.

Luckily for me and other incredibly paranoid people, the CDC records the top ten killers of people across all age groups. Thank goodness!

According to cdc.gov, the top five killers of people ages 15-24 are the following;

1. Unintentional Injury.

2. Suicide

3. Homicide

4. Malignant neoplasms (Cancer)

5. Heart Disease.

Unintentional injury is no. 1. There were 11,000 deaths of people ages age group of 15-24 attributed to this in 2013. Around a third of those were motor vehicle related in 2015. This one is somewhat controllable. You can minimize the risk here by being a safe driver. Of course sometimes there is nothing you can do.

Suicide coming in at no. 2 is very depressing. About 5,000 people in 2013 decided they didn’t want to see 2014. This comes to the individual person. Suicide is a choice. Unless you subscribe to the field of thought that free will is an illusion. But that’s a deterministic argument that I don’t feel like discussing today.

Getting done in by someone else is sort of in your control. You can try to stay away from dangerous situations and people. But sometimes they find you. What can you do?

Cancer and Heart disease round out the rest of the list here and they will get most people in the end. If you look down at the chart I’ve included below, they climb higher throughout the age brackets until they are the top two killers. I don’t know if they can avoided. Even people who eat healthy are not immune to cancer and heart disease.

leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2013-a

Maybe one day mankind will find a way to conquer death and live forever. But that also opens up more problems. What are we going to do when the Sun eventually engulfs the earth in a few billion years? It might get a little hot around here.

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The Danger

There comes a moment in a young boy’s life where the safety net of childhood is ripped away from him. He is now to be held responsible for his actions. He is no little boy anymore. He is to be treated like any other man. I’ve had several of those moments. The first I can recall occurred on a late night walk when I was fifteen.

I’m one of those types who walks late at night to clear their head. It drives my poor mother nuts but it has to be done. I’ve tried to remember just when I started this habit of mine, but the memory has been lost. I’d walk miles and end up in places I didn’t expect to. On a rare occasion, I could end up lost for hours. It was one of those nights that I had my moment.

Being out late at night is a dangerous situation to be in. That’s when all the creeps and freaks are out and about. It never deterred me. I prepared myself before I headed out. I was a cautious teenager. I paid complete attention to my surroundings and walked with one ear phone out. I kept only five dollars in my wallet and wore my most beaten up shoes. Being lost late at night compounded the danger.

The freaks could smell fear. If they saw weakness in your steps and poise, that could be it.

That night I found myself in a cul-de-sac in the town over from mine. I had walked in much worse towns than that one. But still I kept my wits about me. Even nice towns had their own batch of misfits looking for any excuse to hurt someone. I knew my way back if I could find the main street. I just needed someone to point me in the right direction. It had to be past midnight.

Then I heard a jogger’s foot steps. A middle-aged woman in a blue track suit was jogging down the side walk I was on. She had no head phones in.

I was so relieved by her presence. Finally a friendly face in the dark. She could help me. I called out to her.

“Excuse me. I’m lost. Do you know how to get to main street from here?”

Her jog sped up into a sprint. She bolted to the other side of the street and jetted away.

I eventually found my way back home. But I was puzzled by her behavior.

Why had she run away so quickly? What was she so afraid of? Was it me? I was a kid. Why run away from a kid?

But in her eyes, I was not a kid. I was the danger in the night.

I would not stand for this. It had to be reversed. I needed to go back to being seen as an innocent kid. If I had been ten, she would have stopped to help me. Maybe she would have scolded me for making my mother worry. It had to return.

But the process could not be stopped. When time took my cute face and fragile frame, it gave me something else. I don’t know what it is, but now I have to come love it. I don’t need to look over my shoulder. I can wear any shoes that I want. I can throw caution into the wind. I do not fear the creeps and freaks any more.

Because I am them and they are me.