For many of us who are old enough to consider retirement, the scarcest resource in our lives is probably not money, but time.
Life, they say, is what happens while you are busy making plans. Time is ticking away, life is short. These days, everyone is saying how busy we are. But, as we all know, we all have the same 24 hours as everyone else, and it is up to us to prioritize how we want to spend our time doing the things that we want to do.
When we were younger, we only had a few weeks of vacation each year to plan for vacation and/or trips, typically 2-4 weeks at a time. Now, once we retire, we can choose to go on super long trips such as 2 months, 6 months, or even years at a time.
Many people delay their retirement for a variety of reasons. They want to be conservative in their finances to ensure that money will never run out, or that they think they enjoy their work as compared to no specific plans, hobbies, activities or adventures after retirement. They like their status quo. This sentiment is easy to understand, but whenever I hear about some friends developing critical illnesses or some famous people who just died on the news, it makes me want to take action for some big adventures. Here is an interesting grave stone marking that speaks to this (Brandon Lee’s grave in Seattle):
“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”
And here is a website that calculates when you are likely to die, based on various parameters about our life (age, weight, gender, whether you smoke) – www.deathclock.com. A big, unstoppable clock counts down the remaining seconds of our life.
This type of thinking is morbid, but it takes deadlines to spur most of us into action. This non-extendable deadline is scary, as there is still so much I want to do before September 14, 2042.
There is no solution to make more time. Money cannot buy more time. But learning about my “Expire Before” date will help me decide not to waste any more time on unimportant things, and to take action on some new possible adventures. We need to begin the conversations with the people in our lives – our family, our boss, ourselves – about ways in which it might be possible to pause the daily rhythm of lives long enough to do something different and really memorable.
One of reason why I like traveling to new places is that it makes me more aware of how much time I have. I really don’t have any more time, but I have just freed it up to spend it on the things that I truly feel is important to me. I wake up excited, as the day is available to explore and experience something new. And the day stretches long into the night. I might meet some new people along the way, learn about new cultures and world heritage sites, visit some world wonders, or hike a mountain to see some wonderful vistas.
When I am away on trips, I do not feel busy, but my days are full and fulfilling. I cherish spending that time. At home my days feel short, hurried, and too routine. At the end of most of those days, I feel I have not accomplished much that is really memorable.
I hope this post will urge you to fill your days with what feels important and worthwhile to you, not with the stuff that conventional society deems us to be doing, or with stuff that might be easy and uncomplicated but is not meaningful and rewarding in the long run.