What is Life? (An Essay By A 16-Year-Old)
I wrote this essay in 1962 at the age of 16 when I was a junior in high school. The essay was published in the local newspaper. Since it is an evergreen message with a universal theme, it is still worth reading in 2017 when I am 71 years old. --- Margaret Jackson Minnicks
As defined in most dictionaries, life is a period of existence, but to me life is not just that. It is a way of living and life is living itself. It is loyalty, love, hope, time, patience, courage, faith, strength, enjoyment, smiles, perseverance, happiness and all of the other beautiful things we often think about.
Some people might not know it, but the happiness of our lives depends on the quality of our thoughts. I do not exactly mean that a person who always keeps an idle mind is not living, but I do mean that he is only half living. Half living is merely a period of existence; not the way of fruitful living. In this brief essay, I will give my opinion of the way I believe a much happier life can be lived
To begin with, the way of living deals with our thoughts. We are what we think we are. We are as old as we feel, as rich as our imagination, as strong as our faith, and as weak as our fears. It is these things that make up life for us; it is our mind that makes the world and our minds are exactly what we make them.
Many of us are are looking for the bright side of life, but there are still those who lead a dull, miserable life. These people are usually too weak to change to the bright side. They are too weak because they think only in terms of themselves. They always try to get what they can from life without adding anything to it. They treat life like a slot machine, putting in a little and always hoping to hit the jackpot.
Some of us are just here living day after day without any special purpose. That's really not the way to live. Living without a purpose is a wasteful way to spend our lives. This means that we are only occupying space and watching time slowly drift away from us.
Have you ever noticed a person who is concerned with the contribution he can make, how much he can give, and how much he can add to life? Usually that person is always wise, happy, and has more inner peace.
We have to help others to be happy. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Happiness is like a perfume; you cannot give it to others without getting a few drops on yourself."
Sometimes for us life holds nothing, but we just can't die. Even at our most miserable moments, life still goes on. Life gives us chances to really prove our value, but if a person is too weak to take those chances, he is living in a dream world. Chances are he might not ever wake up and face reality.
We should start right now, this very moment to put the definitions of "life" together and make the most of it. Unlike the cat, we do not have nine lives. We have only one life. Therefore, we should realize that it is too precious to destroy or ruin.
Henry Van Dyke so aptly phrased this in a poem when he wrote:
Too short for those who wait;
Too swift for those who fear;
Too long for those who grieve;
Too slow for those who rejoice:
But for those who really live,
Life is not.
(Margaret Jackson, October 1962, Central High School, Sussex, VA; Published in the Sussex-Surry Dispatch)