Throughout my entire life I have been living with the threat of imminent death. I don't live in a third world country where I lack the resources to survive and I'm not part of some persecuted minority group which struggles in the face of ignorance. I'm a person living in an earthquake zone, where there is the high probability that "The Big One" will strike and wipe out all that I hold dear.
For as long as I can remember, scientists and teachers have placed extreme importance on emergency preparedness in a manner similar to the way my mother was instructed about possible nuclear bombing. At the same time that seismic upgrades were added to buildings and people were making sure they had First Aid Kits at the ready, another threat emerged. Living in an area which is close to, or at sea level, should the polar ice caps melt in a way that scientist predict they will, my island will probably be toast. During my high school years it became a bit of a joke, how likely we were to expire at the hands of nature one way or another. I had one teacher who tried to hammer home the importance of thinking about our impending mortality, but you can imagine how this fell on deaf ears. Too many of people my age were dying as a result of automobile accidents for me to pay all that much attention to threats out of my control.
This week it hit home how lucky I've been for the last twenty-something years. I got a phone call at 5:00 in the morning from my boyfriend's mother, who just wanted to hear that he was okay. He had just returned from Hawaii and came back to another place threatened by earthquake and tsunami alike. His relatives from back east were all wringing their hands, hoping that our island wouldn't be hit with a tsunami similar to the one that hit Japan. I was blissfully ignorant of all of this drama, having barely heard about a large earthquake in Japan, and having spent most of my life under the threat of one disaster or another, I never actually believe that I am in any type of jeopardy. Though I'm sure that the people of Japan probably felt something similar until the recent devastation. I don't doubt that a Japanese person my age has been drilled in earthquake safety the same as me, and being island-dwellers they too know the beauty and power of the ocean. It is a double-edged sword living on the water.
Unless I have a complete change of heart, I don't think that there is anywhere else which I would rather live. Despite the consequences of dwelling in "The Ring of Fire," I think I'll learn to deal with it. For me, there is comfort knowing that I will always be within walking distance to a body of water, come what may. Meanwhile, I will stock up on emergency provisions, buy a First Aid Kit, and stop using our stash of bottled water to make coffee. There is nothing wrong with basic emergency preparedness, but my life won't be dominated by the predictions of scientists that I have been listening to for as long as I can remember. If the worst does happen, I hope that I'm totally ignorant of my fate, sitting on my couch with a beverage of my choice, awaiting whatever "The Big One" can dish out.