Everything else

Immortality: A Life Plan

Con: you’ll probably get bored. Pro: you might witness an apocalypse!

Illustration by Ana

Everyone dies—after being born, it’s pretty much the only guarantee we have about our existence. And we have no idea what really happens afterwards. All we know is this: this life, this time, this place. So of course we’re a little attached to it, and sometimes ask ourselves: What if we never died? What if we went on and on, never leaving this place, where we’ve grown so comfortable?

Thus we have Ponce de León’s search for the Fountain of Youth, the ongoing quest to find the Holy Grail, Interview With the Vampire, Twilight, Voldemort, the super-beautiful elves in The Lord of the Rings, Tuck Everlasting, and the awesome gender-shifting title character in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, which is also a fantastic movie starring Tilda Swinton. Collectively, we are obsessed with the idea of immortality, and why wouldn’t we be? You could literally see the whole world! You could make a fortune selling “antique” books that you bought when they were new! You could find out if those flying cars ever happen!

And, maybe best of all: you would finally, finally, finally have enough time to do ever single thing you have ever wanted, or will ever want, to do. No more panic or anxiety about your opportunities, e.g., “I’m too old to learn to play the piano,” or “I can’t become a doctor and an animator; I have to pick one.” You can become a surgeon, then an FX artist, then a kindergarten teacher, then concert pianist. You can watch regimes rise and fall, learn every language, and travel the world helping people. Can you even imagine? Endless days of lying around reading whatever you want to. You would never worry about the slight wrinkles under your eyes or whether it’s a good idea to jump from your friend’s roof onto her trampoline and into her pool. You would just do it.

Those are some of the pros of immortality, as I see it. But then there are the cons. Obviously, everyone else in your family, and all your friends, and everyone you’d ever known, would die. That would be terrible. You’d be lonely. Also, I would always wonder: what does happen after we die? The answer would be completely inaccessible to me for the rest of my eternal life. You would watch everyone else journey into death, and maybe feel a curious sense of loss, like you missed out on what Dumbledore calls “the next great adventure.” You’d really have to deal with the effects of global warming. (On the flipside, there’s a better chance that you’ll be around to witness an actual apocalypse, which I think is nifty, but opinions may differ.)

Would you get tired of Earth? Of all the hunger, the poverty, the filth, and the continuing struggle of billions of people to survive? I would. I would probably learn to close myself off from the awfulness of it so I wouldn’t have to feel so intensely about it all the time. But that might lead to a me vs. them sort of attitude, making me feel different than regular mortals, and we all know that feeling different, special, or superior to other people is what leads to jerkish behavior. I would probably get annoyed with people after several centuries and become a real asshole. Now I’m an asshole for eternity? I’d be terrible company.

I tried to wrap my head around the idea of living forever and really get a sense of how I would spend my time. But the concept of infinity is difficult to fathom, so I decided to do what I did one August when I was living in Italy, flat broke and all alone without the means to go anywhere else: draw up a schedule. My Italy schedule looked like this:

8 AM Get up. Go back to sleep.
9 AM Make breakfast, shower, get dressed.
10:30-11 AM Do Italian workbook.
11 AM Lay out along the river and write in journal.
12:30 PM Lunch.
1:30 PM Nap.
3 PM Go to market.
4-6 PM Read/write email at the internet café.
6:30 PM Make dinner.
7:30 PM Go on an incredibly long bike ride until it gets dark.
10:30 PM Bed.

It was a long month. Now if I were immortal, my schedule might look something like this:

Now-2030: Hang out with my friends and family. Laugh off uncomfortable remarks about my ageless appearance.
2031-2070: Live with my partner, whom I would explain the bit about being immortal to, in Paris, Minneapolis, London, and San Francisco.
2070-2073: Be a serious grump about losing everyone important to me. I’d probably want to relocate to somewhere notoriously overcast, like Seattle or Glasgow. It makes things more poignant when the weather agrees with your mood.
2073-2081: Take enough dance classes so I don’t look like an idiot on the dance floor.
2081-3000: Go nuts for a while. Seduce ladiezzzz and do all the things that aren’t good for you when you’re mortal, like eating cake every night for dinner and sleeping for weeks and taking drugs and taunting huge guys in bars.
3000-3222: Read every book that’s ever been called a classic, starting with Anna Karenina, a book with a bazillion Russian characters who all have several nicknames that make me go cross-eyed by page 20. Even with 222 years, however, I will still probably never finish James Joyce’s Ulysses.
3222-3264: Become an expert equestrian. Have a string of gleaming chestnut Arabian horses with ridiculous names, like Gentleman Jazz, Dandy Suitor, and Ziploose N Fancy Free.
3264-4010: Do something for humanity. Try to cure all the diseases that haven’t already been cured, from cancer to eczema.
4010-4889: Assuming the world hasn’t been destroyed by pollution or asteroids or belligerent aliens, and that there are still such things as governments and countries: travel extensively to every country. I’d definitely spend large chunks of time in Britain and South America, and become the first person to walk across Antarctica, because why not? I can’t die out there—I won’t even need a jacket.

Here’s the problem: I’m totally out of ideas after that. What the heck am I going to do with all that time? I asked the Rookie staff to help me out.

Maggie: I would pretend to be a ghost, and haunt the same family for generations. I would also plant a lot of trees, and visit them in 100 years. Then I’d learn to crochet.

Emma: I would learn how to make everything I love the most—cheese, champagne, chocolate. I guess I’d have to learn French, too.

Gabrielle: Track down the rest of my state quarters. Goddamn Wisconsin and North Dakota are keeping me from completing my commemorative map.

Danielle: If I had an eternity, I could finally learn to love yoga.

Sady: I would try to write the world’s longest and most boring history of social behaviors and communication: “Now, in my time, there weren’t so many nuclear mutants, you see, so we didn’t rely on telepathy. You had to use Google Chat.”

Hazel: I’d be a vigilante hero like Batman, but I can’t be killed.

Pixie: I would run a hotel for other immortals and we’d sit around and drink lemonade and, if necessary, band together to save the universe when asked.

Anna: Take a lot of naps.

Sady: What if you just used your immortality to become the most passive-aggressive person in the world? Any time somebody was a jerk, you’d be very Zen, and not get into a fight, but you’d keep a file. And then when they were on their deathbeds, you’d show up with your gleaming, youthful face and very serenely go, “I win.”

All of these are solid ideas. It would be ridiculously fun for a while to right society’s wrongs and watch ALL the cat videos the internet has to offer. But Sady made a point, based on a book she read called The Snow Queen, that I think is right-on—you’d probably eventually become a sociopath who can’t connect to anybody, because, as she says, “everyone else keeps aging and dying, and you don’t, and you can’t feel empathy for them.” So if you asked me, right this minute, if I was ready to join the ranks of the immortal? I’d probably choose to live a regular life. I really do want to know what happens when we die. And the truth? There are not years enough in eternity to turn me into a good dancer. ♦

36 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax January 14th, 2013 3:06 PM

    I think living forever would get a bit boring, but I am interested in being cryogenically frozen. Just to see what the future is like.

    http://rosieandthewolf.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Miarele January 15th, 2013 11:52 PM

      YESSS being cryogenically frozen is one of my lifelong dreams. I think I like the idea of waking up to a new, drastic, and slightly unreal surrounding. I just would like to take a break and wake up all surprised, you know?

  • jenaimarley January 14th, 2013 3:12 PM

    I agree. I want to die (when I am very old maybe, but someday).
    It is cool to think about immortality though and to live our lives a tiny bit more as if we were immortal (taking risks can be good for your health!)

  • sneakybacon January 14th, 2013 3:31 PM

    but the thing is the world would one day end and then you’d be left floating in space with no one and nothing for ever and ever

  • InProgress January 14th, 2013 3:41 PM

    “On the flipside, there’s a better chance you’ll be around to witness an actual apocalypse, which I think is nifty, but opinions may differ.”
    Too funny.
    But seriously, this article is great. I’ve never really understood the appeal of immortality before, but now Rookie has succeeded in opening my eyes, once again.

  • Lascelles January 14th, 2013 4:02 PM

    Has Ana illustrated for Rookie before? There should be some kind of search for illustrators because she’s brilliant.

    • Anaheed January 14th, 2013 4:09 PM

      Agreed! We are trying to figure out how to get WordPress to generate author pages for illustrators but so far the answer has eluded us.

    • Ana January 14th, 2013 4:49 PM

      Thank you so much!! ♥♥

  • grace elizabeth January 14th, 2013 4:24 PM

    I always thought that being immortal would just be lonely and terrible but it’s fun to imagine all the sweet stuff you could do. Great article, definitely made my afternoon :)

  • Naomi January 14th, 2013 6:03 PM

    i loved this

  • sophiethewitch January 14th, 2013 6:10 PM

    I don’t think I would accomplish much of anything if I was immortal. I saw this quote, I forget who said it, “to accomplish great things, two things are necessary: a plan, and not quite enough time.” I think that’s so true. Without the motivation of urgency, even forever wouldn’t be enough time for me to start making things happen.

  • Ariella95 January 14th, 2013 6:28 PM

    I just read an AP practice passage that was, for once, actually interesting. It talked about a society where everyone lives forever. However, this means everyone has an endless list of relatives and so no one can ever really be independent. Eventually, some people get so tired of this that they commit suicide. Upon a Google search, I found out that the passage is from the novel Einstein’s Dreams, which I really want to read now.

    • sophiethewitch January 15th, 2013 2:21 AM

      Einstein’s Dreams is one of my favorite books. Definitely read it.

  • rayfashionfreak January 14th, 2013 6:30 PM

    This is really interesting, I’ve never properly thought about what I’d do if I was immortal, but I guess it would probably include many of these things. I would love to just spend a long time doing arty things like drawing and sewing, then travel the world, multiple times, learn languages, discover all sorts of amazing music.

    (Loved the shout-out to Glasgow, it is VERY rainy and dull (although the people are definetly not, they would totally cheer you up))

    We were talking about immortality in Geography (extremely relevant, I know) and our teacher who is the most energetic, active person I have ever met, asked us all if we would choose endless amounts of money or immortality. Almost everyone chose the money. He was disappointed in us though. I don’t know whether to be saddened by this as it shows how shallow we are as a society, or pleased that people would rather not be around without their loved ones, or whether its just a reflection that money can do anything now, and we dont’ have to have forever to do it?

  • llamalina January 14th, 2013 7:34 PM

    i love the idea that you’d eventually become a sociopath.

    i don’t know if i’d like to live forever. living right now as a mortal seems hard enough. i guess that as long as i got to stay young, i’d be okay with it. but i never want to get old.

    http://llamalina.blogspot.com

    • sophiethewitch January 15th, 2013 2:24 AM

      Do you mean physically get old? Or mentally? Mentally at least, I think getting old would be necessary to not go crazy… imagine experiencing every emotion with the intensity and angst that you experience them now, but forever.

      • Pashupati January 15th, 2013 12:45 PM

        I guess it’s not so much mental, but psychological. After living certain experiences, you don’t experience emotions the same way?

      • llamalina January 15th, 2013 9:03 PM

        i mean physically get old. i volunteer at an assisted living home sometimes and as much as i like interacting with the people there, i never want to be so old that i can’t get around or even survive on my own. psychological maturity is quite welcome.

  • Yayo January 14th, 2013 7:56 PM

    Oh my God, Sady, I’m in love with both of your ideas. THAT is how I’d spend all of my immortal life.

  • Abby January 14th, 2013 10:56 PM

    This is the best. Also, if you haven’t seen Tuck Everlasting, get thee to netflix and rent it right this minute!

    “Don’t be afraid of death, Winnie. Be afraid of the unlived life.”
    -Angus Tuck

    And I mean really. With a quote like that how could you NOT watch it.

  • rottedteeth January 14th, 2013 11:00 PM

    I think immortality would give you a chance to meet a lot of people and if you were immortal you’d probably be famous so you’d meet some “celebrities” too. But you’d still have to live through them dying. I’m still undecided about it.

    http://growtolovesoon.blogspot.com/

  • Mintvirgin January 15th, 2013 12:57 AM

    to my mind, I am very disorganized and the plan of a day can’t help me.. but article is interesting) thanks)

    mintvirgin.blogspot.com

  • alylee January 15th, 2013 1:34 AM

    I totally read that passage a few years ago in high school. I think back to it a lot.

  • Jessica W January 15th, 2013 2:27 AM

    This is such a cool idea. I spent the past few hours thinking about it. I would become every person. The goth, cheerleader, grunge kid etc. I’d be a poor lady, a rich lady… a rich man even.

    I watched a documentary arguing whether time even exists (is it just a measure of light etc.) recently. So I’m still trying to wrap my head around what immortality IS. I get it’s living forever, but what is our forever?
    In theory we all live in our own forever, because that is the only time we exist in… The only time we fathom.
    I’m getting philosophical and confusing myself.

    The Lovelorn

  • Yazmine January 15th, 2013 4:06 AM

    I love thinking about this kind of thing, particularly in Math/Science/other lessons I lack in. I’m also drooooling over the illustration

    http://www.fashionandfringes.blogspot.com.au

  • Mary the freak January 15th, 2013 10:37 AM

    Immortal is a huge word. I think, the only “immortal” that’s possible for us humans, is that you will always be remembered. Rosa Parks and Frida Kahlo and David Bowie (sigh *-*) are immortal, in a different way. I am sure being immortal would be great fun, and there’s so much to know and to experience, I guess it’s not possible to know everything or speak every language. There is always more. And I think although it’s hard to see people go, being immortal would be amazing.

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • Hedwig January 15th, 2013 11:47 AM

    Woahh this is awesome! I think I would try to make my first life perfect in terms of relations with my family so I wouldn’t regret stuff after their deaths. I would become very religious and make things to honor the people I once loved. I would try to find old people in my life reborn as different people. I would also get the feeling that everything is moving in the world except my body. Overall I think after a 1000 years I might hit some pretty bad lows. I wouldn’t even be able to remember what my mother’s face looked like. I wouldn’t defiantly want to die.

  • Sophii January 15th, 2013 12:19 PM

    I love this. I love Sady’s second idea :) I always feel like I never have enough time so in that respect being immortal would be awesome because you would have time to do so many different things and reinvent yourself over and over again. I guess for now though, we’ll just have to try and fit as much into our short lives as possible. I think it would be nice if the human life expectancy was longer but if time is all relative then we probably wouldn’t get any more done than we do now. The couple of days that an insect lives probably feels like a long time to them but it wouldn’t to us. Fantastic article <3

    http://thechicmuse000.blogspot.co.uk

  • Acid-moon January 16th, 2013 6:17 PM

    I would plot out an entire forest, from the placement of every single tree and plant, to digging streams and creeks, to populating it with wildlife. Then years later some unsuspecting hiker could stumble in on it and get all creeped out. Like “OMG, whats with this freakishly perfect forest?!”

    • Cutesycreator aka Monica May 30th, 2013 2:18 PM

      This is one of the best Rookie comments I have EVER READ. Now I am really in the mood for making a perfect forest.

  • Cynthia January 18th, 2013 1:12 AM

    OMG! THIS WHOLE POST MADE ME THINK ABOUT DOCTOR WHO!! To anyone reading this: if you don’t already watch Doctor Who you really should, it’s about an alien who looks like a human and has two hearts- he’s a timelord from planet Gallifrey and he’s called The Doctor. He never dies beause timelords have a way of cheating death: regeneration (so when his body is injured or weakened by something deadly he grows a new body and lives on, the sane man with a new body and a new face). He travels through time and space in a blue police telephone box which is bigger on the inside- tbecausey is TARDIS. He is the last timelord in exsisstence- all of the other timelords died in the great Time War- the last battle of time, it was against a group of metal aliens called the Daleks- creatures that have had all emotions removed of them, they were designed to kill anyone and anything who isn’t a Dalek because they are inferior. Because he is so lonely he travels with a companion who helps him solve the problems in different place and times all throughout the entire history, but he can’t stay with them forever because he couldn’t dare to see his loved ones age and die while he lives on. Many people think that Doctor Who is all “sci-fi” and “aliens”, but when you watch it you discover that it’s so much more than that- it’s like a tv show with countless different genres packed into the main genre of the show; science fiction. And watching it gives you a sense of not only what it would be like to live forever but what it would be like to time travel! …Hehe, I found this post very interesting!!

    • Cutesycreator aka Monica May 30th, 2013 2:22 PM

      Cynthia, for months and months and MONTHS I have been desperately searching for a brief, informative synopsis of Doctor Who, as, alas, I have been on the fence about whether to try watching it or not. Now I have finally found one and I thank you enormously. Definitely gonna check it out now, it sounds fantastic! <3 <3 <3

  • Cynthia January 18th, 2013 1:13 AM

    (and sorry for the huge chunk of writing guys…)

  • Cynthia January 18th, 2013 9:11 AM

    And, omg, I just realized how bad some of the grammar in there^^^ is, I can’t always type properly with my iPod touch.

  • Cutesycreator aka Monica May 30th, 2013 2:16 PM

    This was a joy to read! Immortality is fascinating. I certainly find the ideas of having an infinite amount of time to do whatever my heart desires and getting to see all the changes in the world appealing, but I just wouldn’t be able to take outliving every single person I have ever known.

    I am trapped in a little bubble of awe/thoughtfulness/wonder/AAAAAH!!! now, so thank you for that. Those bubbles are always welcome! <3