This Wait But Why post is enlightening and sobering. Tim Urban charts his life expectancy and the frequency with which he is likely to experience various things if he lives to 90.
Seeing all the weeks or days you have left laid out in a grid makes for a unique perspective.
I’m 51. If I’m lucky enough to live to 90, I’ve got fewer than 40 Christamases left to experience. Same for the seasons. Less than 40 summers remain.
And if I eat coconut pie only three times each year, I’m down to just 120 or so moments of coconut pie bliss. (Note to self and to my lovely wife who bakes the world’s best coconut pies: Create more coconut pie eating opportunities.)
The relationship insights of seeing your remaining life laid out like this are more striking. Urban shares this observation about his time with his family:
It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.
It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.
This is painfully true and a bit disheartening to contemplate. My parents and my sister were my world until I moved out for college. Once we lived in different towns, contact with them plummeted to just a few face-to-face encounters each year.
It’s going to happen with my kids, too. They are at the center of my life right now, and my wife and I are everything to them. But in a few years, their mom and I will just be peripheral characters in their ongoing stories.
The awareness of the finite nature of everything we do and experience can make those things shine with meaning more than our usual obliviousness allows.
Especially in this holiday season it’s helpful to remember to savor the fleeting moments you have with the people you love most.
Regularly focusing on the brevity of life will compel you to add more meaningful moments to the days remaining on your grid.
And you might just eat coconut pie a little more often.