COMMENT: They say two things in life are certain - death and taxes. As an 18 year old, you have no grasp of how either of those concepts work, which is probably what makes that time of life so enjoyable.
Last week it was three years since I was announced in remission from cancer.
I'm not holding for applause, I don't celebrate the date myself any more than I feel obliged to. Nor am I sure where that feeling of obligation comes from or who it is to. The whole event is an enigma for me.
So last week, on the apparently sacred day, I sat down on my couch, stared at the blank wall opposite me, and mulled over the changes of time and life and such. I felt like a little child at an ANZAC service trying his best to give a semblance of respect to a concept which he can't comprehend the significance of, nor feel much emotion towards.
I tried with great effort to draw a distinction between the anniversary this year and last year and the year before, to find anything to set them apart. Without the changing number of candles on a cake, the shifts aren't as stark as even a birthday. I held up my mindsets, both now and then, like an existential spot the difference.
I found one!
As an 18-year-old, I was no exception to the death and taxes rule. Going through my diagnosis and treatment, I never feared death because I genuinely didn't believe it would come to me. I had a great deal of respect for it because I saw it take people around me, but I didn't believe that I could be one of them.
My lack of understanding of this wasn't bravery, nor was it bolshie bravado, nor was it idiocy, or dogmatic optimism, or a lack of understanding that I had found myself in a rather tight spot. It was pure naivety, the essence of teenage spirit condensed.
Once it was over, I came out of my cancer into remission with immense gratitude, but mostly just gratitude that a wearisome period of my life was coming to an end. You could even say I came into remission exactly as I had planned to, and with no surprise that I had done so. Life went on, and has continued to for three years now, and I am and always have been incommunicably grateful that it has.
As the haze of teenage years begins to settle and the simple facts of life get laid out for you, the four corners of the field set, the markings on the pitch begin to become more apparent.
My mindset has shifted. I suppose death now exists in a different format to what it previously has for me, one which is a lot more tangible and less of an abstract concept. The previously disputable edges of the playing field have been replaced with razor sharp painted white lines.
This change hasn't been through a coming of age itself, rather that age and time has opened up the door for me to have a deeper understanding of some things I have seen around me.
Along my journey, I've known people with cancer stories so similar to mine that we celebrated together the likeness we shared as they fought their fight, and looked forward to the days when they would similarly go into remission as I had done. These people then lost to cancer.
Same cancer, same presentation, same age, same goals and aspirations, same past, different ending- a mirror image of me, until the path forked and we went the two possible directions. Your mortality becomes abundantly apparent to you when you watch yourself die.
I've met kids who have passed away from the same disease I fought, and nothing came out of the blindside to stop it. There was no last minute reprieve, no stay of execution. I'm not sure why I expected one, but I felt a great sense of surprise when there wasn't, and all of a sudden they were simply gone.
Maybe I'd watched too many Hollywood movies- the ones where the main character comes tantalisingly close to death before being whisked away from the edge just in time.
The viewer knows all along they'll survive, regardless of how insurmountable the odds may seem, and sure enough they do. I was always patiently waiting to be whisked away from that edge, as then happened to me. My view of that as being the only outcome to that particular predicament was then reinforced, and I'm still trying to shake that belief now, despite mounting evidence that I nearly died.
Or more likely, I just wasn't ready to understand this all three years ago. I was too busy in a world sans death and taxes. The grim reaper's ego must have been wounded as I sauntered past him without even recognising him.
While I don't think 21-year-old me has much more of a grasp on the fragility of life than I did three years ago, the amount which I have gleaned, however small it may be, has given me renewed gratitude that I am here today. I hope that gratitude for life continues to swell every day, because it is a pleasure to carry with me.