I was walking home from school, making my way down Sherrington Road , Charlton, towards the ditch: a dirt road that branched off from Sherrington Road and passed alongside a series of allotments before exiting at Tallis Grove, which was a stone’s throw from where I lived. The houses along Sherrington Road had small front gardens with low brick walls. I was alone with my thoughts, absentmindedly running my hand along the top of one such wall when I was struck by a sudden and horrifying thought. For the first time in my six years of life I was abruptly aware of my own mortality. My life was finite. One day I would die. The awful realisation froze me to my core.
That evening I went out to play. It was cold and dark. I looked up at the sky, the breaking clouds revealing the everlasting blackness of space dotted throughout with glittering bright stars. The moon cast a silvery lining around fluffy clouds as they swept across the sky. Suddenly another profound truth hit me. I realised in that exquisite moment that I was somehow part of this immensity, this vastness we call the cosmos. I was alive. I had emotions. I was somehow able to sense my surroundings, able gaze up into the heavens and feel an overwhelming sense of awe. It was almost reciprocal, as if the universe was communicating with me. I was aware, here and now, just as the heavens were here and now with me. For as long as I lived I’d be amazed at its beauty and the infinite mysteries that it held. And I was part of. A child of six years old, alone with no friends, just my thoughts and the astonishing reality of my life — and the terrifying ambiguity of death.