I sometimes can’t believe I used to cross days off my calendar with a colorful, scented marker. I was only a child, counting down the days until Christmas, my birthday, Halloween, or summer break. Time used to feel incredibly infinite back then.
The idea of crossing days off my calendar now terrifies me. Each day crossed off is one day lived. The things I do and the people I see are finite.
My husband sent me this blog called The Tail End sometime last summer. It’s a couple of years old, but absolutely worth your time if you haven’t read it yet. In the post, author Tim Urban of Wait But Why reveals the concept of time in shockingly simple terms that punch you right in the gut.
At the age of 34, he illustrates the time he has left to do everything from eating pizza to spending time with his parents—assuming that everyone lives until the ripe age of 90. These concise graphics make you stop and think.
There is a finite number of books you’ll read…
There is a finite number of moments with your parents…
When I first read The Tail End, I devoured it. At the time I was struggling with a pretty major life decision. I was afraid to quit my salary job and run our consulting business, Superneat Marketing, full-time.
One of the main reasons Mr. H and I decided to start a business was so we could spend more time together. Most people think working with a spouse is completely crazy. We wanted to give it a shot, because we aren’t rich and we have to work to make a living. Many, many life hours will be spent working. So, why not work as a team?
In the 12 years of our marriage, most of that time had been spent apart at our full-time jobs. The reality of the 40-hour workweek was more like 50 hours for me, and 60+ hours for him.
If we account for two weeks of vacation for uninterrupted time outside the weekends, that’s 50 weeks. So, each year—if we go with 60 hours as an average—we were roughly spending this much of our lives away from each other:
- 3,000 hours
- 125 days
- 18 weeks
- Over 4 months
In 12 years of marriage, that equals this much time apart:
- 36,000 hours
- 1500 days
- 214 weeks
- 50 months
- Over 4 years
I’m not a numbers gal, I’m a words gal. Yet, seeing life as a numerical breakdown really hit home for me.
The Tail End isn’t meant to be morbid, it’s meant to be a wake-up call. Here are some ways I use it to keep myself in check that you might find useful.
Do More of the Things You Love
There’s something to be said about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if you look at what is most meaningful to you. It comes down to figuring out how you’re going to spend your finite lifetime doing exactly what you want.
For me, it’s often traveling more. To travel, I have to make it happen—it requires me to pull some strings monetarily, but also from a timing standpoint. Now that I run my own business, I don’t get paid time off. While I have complete flexibility, it’s a gift and a curse to be away from my business.
But, I also know I only have so many hours / days / weeks / months / years left to see the world. Now I’ll make the sacrifice to work harder to be able to take some time off and pay for an experience that I would miss if I grinded it out all the time.
Do Less of the Things You Don’t Love
Prioritizing time for the things you love is pretty cut and dry—I want more of this in my life, so I’m going to make time for it. What can be harder is choosing not to make time for the things that don’t serve you. Which means, you have to learn to say “no.”
The reason why this is perhaps more important is because of that whole finite time thing. If you’re spending time doing things you don’t want to do, then you have less time for things that truly matter to you.
Unless you’re well off, you’re going to have to work for income. With all the time we spend working, doing something you love—or at least…like—is crucial.
Work is work, but there are a surprising number of other things that take up time in our lives as well. The little things will inevitably add up.
Now I don’t feel bad about not reading a book, because I wasn’t into it. Now I don’t feel guilty if I skip blogging for a month, because I was busy living my life instead of writing about it.
See More of the People You Love
This is the tough one. Not all of us will live to be 90-years-old. Future health-related technological advances might grant some of us a longer lifespan, but who knows?
When I traveled to Texas last October for my nana’s funeral, I realized it was the third time I had visited my family for sad reasons over the course of seven years. I went for my mom’s breast cancer, my dad’s heart attack, and my grandmother’s funeral. Not a fun time for anyone, obviously.
So, I made it a goal this year see my family for happy reasons by booking one family vacation. “Vacation” means that everybody is on vacation. Nobody is visiting, which is usually distracting since someone is working, hosting, etc.
In July, Mr. H and I are meeting up with my mom and my sister and her family for a road trip around Yellowstone and Jackson Hole. My sister’s family had the trip planned and my mom decided to join them. We found out about the trip and decided to crash their vacation after that.
Seeing more of the people we love…we’re making it happen.
See Less of the People You Don’t Love
This one can seem harsh and it’s not always possible. You probably don’t love all of the people you work with. Unless you have big plans to run your own business with the love of your life, you need to make the best of it.
One area worth looking at is who you are hanging out with during your free time. This can be tricky though. We have a lot of acquaintances that we see more than we see our own family. These acquaintances are good people who we share plenty of good times with. I wouldn’t say that we love them, but we certainly like spending time with them.
So, be careful about weighing relationship tiers here, like acquaintances versus family members. Family is family, and of course, we want to spend as much time as we can with them. But there are also many people who will touch your life, and you may not even know their last name.
The Tail End influences most of my actions and decisions. It started when I decided to take the leap and quit my full-time job so that Mr. H and I could spend more of our lives together. It continues with countless other things I’ve made happen or not happen ever since.
This may not resonate with you the same way, and that’s okay. I hope it does, or that something does. Because the time we have here is finite. All the more reason to maximize it for the things and people we love most, right?