A reflection on the shortness (and longness) of life

Image from waitbutwhy.com

IF you really want to freak yourself out, look at the image above.

Look at it really hard.

Humans are visual creatures. Each circle is a month of your life. And right at the end, there is 90 (at that point, you are blessed if you can keep going).

I’m certain everyone has had the “damn, I’m getting old,” feeling.

You know, when you realize the Gameboy Advance came out in 2001, or even for some of you folks reading this, that the Super Nintendo came out in 1991, or for even a fewer set of you, that the Atari 2600 came out in 1977.

Yeah, a lot of time has passed us. For me, I’m already past the halfway point between birth and 30. In that amount of time, I’ve seen some crazy shit.

  • 9/11, the worst terrorist attack we’ve had on American soil.

I’m sure you can think of millions of other things that have happened since 1996.

If you are older than me, you can think of A LOT more stuff.

If you are younger, you have still been able to see just how quickly life has changed for humanity in even a decade or two.

But that is a lot of circles. Month to month, you might not notice the severity of what I’m attempting to explain.

Every diamond is a year of your life.

I’m already in my third row. That means I got about six more rows in me (if I don’t die prematurely) before I croak. In the 2nd row, I came pretty close to calling it quits (suicide).

Mac Miller had 64 diamonds left before he tragically passed away.

Heath Ledger had 62.

They both did amazing things that most people could never do while they were still alive. Imagine if they could have made it to 90. They did a lot with the little time that they had.

I would’ve missed out on A LOT too had I killed myself… even though 70 or so more years really isn’t that much time. (Yeah, I know. Time is a weird thing. It can be a lot and a little at the same time.)

Think about it. The number 70 felt like a lot when you were a kid, didn’t it? If you got $70 in birthday money, you felt like Richie Rich.

My little brother (who is 6) told me this once:

“Angel, I love you a hundred!”

Yeah, a hundred. To him, that was the biggest number in his mind. Obviously, he meant infinity (hopefully) but I digress.

The last time I went to visit, he bumped that number up to 1000! A hundred got smaller.

Now, imagine the year life calendar right where that little dot is. That is us.

And not just us but all of recorded human history, which goes back about 5000 years or so.

The sun is the only thing that has been able to watch all of it from the birth of planet Earth to biological life’s first creatures to your oldest living ancestor to your grandparents to you.

When you were a kid, you felt like everything was FOREVERRRRRRR. Recess was too short and the classes stretched on for what felt like years.

And then you get older. Your parents start to grey. The family dog or cat goes to animal heaven. Your grandparents pass away. You get old enough to drink.

The unanimous advice I’ve heard from every old person I’ve talked to is this:

“It goes quick, enjoy it!”

That didn’t make sense when I was in elementary school but now that I’m a year out from graduating college, it makes a lot more sense now.

A poem by Percy Shelley, Ozymandias, always stuck with me when I read it in high school.

I met a traveler from an antique land,

Who said — “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Megalodons, the biggest sharks ever, the mighty dinosaurs, mammoths and ground sloths, the greatest kings like Ozymandias, and the most feared rulers like Genghis Khan and Napoleon have all come and gone.

Nothing lasts. No matter how big, powerful, influential, or seemingly almighty something is, it will come and go.

Your time comes and goes and goes and goes, too. Once you’ve spent it, you can never get it back.

Poor men have become millionaires, and millionaires have become poor men.

You can spend a dollar and make a dollar right back.

Time is a severe currency; once you’ve spent it, it is gone. GONE gone.

Until we invent time travel, there is no way to go back and change anything in the past, no matter how badly you want to change it.

All you can do is look towards the future and learn from your mistakes.

…Okay, I had to put that cute puppy up there to lighten the mood. Damn.

So, why is the life calendar such a scary motivational picture?

You can see how much time you have left. And those diamonds pass by faster and faster the busier you become and the older you get. You aren’t even guaranteed to get all your diamonds, or circles, or even days, hours, or seconds.

Endless summer days quickly become exciting, fulfilling summer breaks that become small, relaxing parts of your year.

What did you do last month?

  • Did you start exercising to lose weight?

None of these are wrong or right but they help you realize how much you could start doing in a month.

January is behind us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start doing things in February.

Make every day count.

A diamond can be a shape, or it can be a valuable, beautiful thing. It can be on the corner of 13 cards or it can be a baseball field.

Whatever you want to make of your diamonds, make all those little diamonds mean something to you.

Because once they are all gone, so are you.

I’ve written on Quora for 2+ years. I enjoy writing about Philosophy, History, and other random things.

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