Getting by with Life vs Living Life

By: Pedro Venancio

A human being’s natural inclination towards survival is to draw breath, but the manner in which such is done is defined by our perception of what it means to be alive. You see, any person with a basic motor function and respiratory system can breathe, and any person with a rudimentary survival instinct can breathe. But what does it exactly mean, in this way, to breathe or, more fully, be taken away by breath? To get by is to be alive, with the consciousness of our impending mortality, but to feel alive, is to live, is to feel infinite, as if the world is never going to end, that burning sensation of awakening. That’s an entirely different matter.

I remember when I was in eighth grade, just getting by with life. Every day, the same routine: Eat, study, sleep, repeat. I completely alienated myself from my friends and family just to focus on myself. Although I was concentrating on myself solely to get better, I got worse. My mental health just dropped because I wasn’t living, yet getting by. After nearly one year of repeating this same vicious schedule, I became asphyxiated by the solitude and monotony I had brought upon myself.

To get by, in a sense, is to be stagnant. Is to let the world flow freely at a rapid rate while you are paused. Is to let the current drag you through rhythms and motions as you hold your breath. Living isn’t about preserving your breath, counting them, watching them go in and out. It’s about forgetting to breathe, dive into passions and opportunities unafraid of consequences, swimming against the current and almost drowning, but in midst of the chaos, finding purpose to live. To feel alive is to live unabashedly, unbridled, and uninhibited. Living is not simply the state of existence and being, but rather, an ardent overflow of happiness, an overpowering sensation to chase your dreams.

Getting by is pretty easy; it’s just inhaling oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. Getting by is to live your life in the parameters set by the world, rather than to dream of crossing the line once in a while. To get by, is to have a heartbeat; to live, is to skip one. Henry Thoreau once wrote, “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.” And that is, in truth, the nature of the problem at hand. To be alive and to live have synonymous denotations but vastly different connotations and meanings.

Living is to pass through life in perpetual wonder, in constant motion. Living is to enjoy the present to its fullest while it lasts and not worry about the future; to live for the moment. Carpe Diem! As John Keating once said, “And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Living is to challenge everything all the time, to take a giant leap off a cliff, and somehow know you’ll float through thin air. To be alive is to go about your life, day after day, without feeling and absorbing all of the beauty of life between the chaos. Yet, truly living is to feel the moments between seconds and know that in that glimpse of time, glorious moment, you are infinite. Living is timeless, living to be unburdened by one’s own mortality, living is to look fate deep in the eye and wink. Living is to cry, laugh, mourn, love, feel, fly. Living is everything you do when it counts, to never take for granted the precious little time you’re given. Living is to exist between realities, between times, to experience the present without fear of the future or ache for the past.

I like to believe I live. I like to believe that my life is vivacious and invigorating. I like to think that if I was about to die, draw my last breath, and a small recap of my life played in my head, I would smile a warm smile, and my heart will rest in peace. I will live a life not without mistakes, but without regrets. I was once asked when I was very small, “What is the meaning of life?” At the time, I didn’t know, I pondered for years, but now, I think I might answer, “To live.” I believe there to be a sort of melancholic, almost arbitrary, beauty in life. To know that it must end, that there is a stop at the end of the ride, but that it’s what you do in between that matters.

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