The Thing About Dying

Singalilwe Chilemba
3 min readOct 11, 2021

The thing about dying and really, the thing about living — is that no one is ever going to get to know you as much as you know yourself.

They have an idea, based on the fragments that they interact with, and they make the rest up as they go along. All relationships are really a game of ‘fill in the blanks’ if we look at it that way. And truth be told, we’re not always the same person with everyone that crosses our paths, so the version of you everyone knows is custom made — special — just for them. There are different versions of you running amok all across the globe.

So when the time eventually comes, everyone will be mourning the version of you that they made up for themselves. The real you, the you that only you are familiar with, will be lost somewhere in the ether.

There are things no one will ever know about you, like the exact combination of all your favourite moments or how the colour blue makes you feel. The emotions you hold close to your chest late at night, when it’s just you facing yourself and you have to confront everything you desire / love / hate / crave / are deeply ashamed of. The things that made you feel things, the things that scared you that you could never articulate. All of that will culminate into a fleeting spark of a life that you may have quite possibly taken for granted.

One way to ensure that’s not the case, is to lean towards authenticity as often as possible. Be your most vulnerable self in the spaces where you feel safe, because in being true to ourselves, the version of us that people carry away with them is closer to who we really are, and if you ask me — that version is worth remembering more than anything. The moments we trust exactly how we show up in the world — and accept that this is in fact good enough — is where the magic truly happens.

It’s not an easy thing to do, to be yourself. I, for one, am still figuring out the right combination of vulnerability, boundaries and forgiveness (for myself as well as others) that ensures I am being my fullest self. It’s often easier to go along with the versions we think other people expect us to be. It’s familiar. Safe. But I hope we all come to the realisation that we are worth acceptance exactly as we are* — and the importance of sitting with this if a part of you is quick to reject or question that.

At the end of the day, life is equally too short to keep constantly judging ourselves against this other, ‘better’, ideal version of ourselves that we assume we need to embody to be our best selves. While actively working towards this is admirable (and truly, the best we could do), it should never come at the expense of the real life version of yourself that is fully deserving of your love and celebration. And it’s never too late to start honouring the reality of who we are in this moment.

*Let us acknowledge here that some people can genuinely just be terrible people, and this is not about ignoring the aspects of ourselves that can be harmful to others — we all have our flaws, some big, some small, that actively need work.