I Have 73 Years Left To Live
And, I have two options:
I will spend each of those years living exactly how I want.
I want to spend each of those years living exactly how I want.
The difference between these two statements is subtle. And is everything.
We have the opportunity to architect the life we want, creating power from choosing to invest in ourselves. The first sentence announces you own your time and your life completely. The second, you hope to, but don’t.
I have to admit something. I am terrified of death. Any thought of death that lasts longer than 10 seconds will send me for the nearest portal to nature where I can exhale deeply, loudly, quickly. Writing this has taken weeks due to this fear.
I am scared of death.
My fear of death comes from an unknown. I do not know what comes after life. What happens at death. A part of me wants to believe in reincarnation, or that we are born again. Maybe our souls are recycled. Maybe I will return as an animal. Another part of me fantasizes that tree roots will find me and my decomposing corpse will nourish the forest. But I don’t know.
It is this unknown that leads me to choose sentence number 1: I will spend each of those years living exactly how I want.
I am 27 years old and I live a lifestyle of wellness. I practice meditation to manage stress. I prioritize sleep. I eat plants in an effort to live disease-free. I move naturally to promote my health. I have developed these practices in accordance with the research of longevity experts, as I am actively pursuing a long life. I am aiming for triple digits. So, that gives me 73 more years to live. 73 years left to make my dreams a reality.
That is 26,645 days.
If I have only 26,645 more days to live, why would I allow any of those days to be filled by doing things I do not want to? If this is my only opportunity to walk the earth, to share air with you, I do not want to be complicit in behaviors that compromise my compass. Which leads me to carefully craft my life in exactly the way I want.
In September, I took a step back and I came to the realization that I was not designing my whole life in accordance with my desires. I mostly was, but there were hours of my days that I spent investing in someone else’s dreams. By prioritizing someone else over myself, I was doing a disservice to myself and my dreams, justifying it with the misplaced self-talk that I will “one day” begin to pursue my dreams completely. Bullshit. I called bullshit.
So, I began vomiting my goals into a spreadsheet. I prioritized them, eliminated some, sought advice, and eliminated more until I arrived at what I felt was the work I wanted to invest my life in.
I want to publish writings, drawings, and poems.
I want to build a wellness brand.
I want to generate ideas for people and causes I believe in.
From there, I began to articulate the lifestyle I wanted to have.
I want to live in warm weather.
I want to spend more time in nature.
I want to ride my bike for transportation.
I want to exercise on beaches and in parks.
I want to be surrounded by creative people.
I want to live in a community that has more year-round produce.
I want to be closer to a community that shares my core values and beliefs.
So, I moved to Los Angeles.
Acting on the clarity that came from this process is what I call pouring the foundation of my life. Through this meticulous process, I created the blueprint of the lifestyle that I want to live within each day of my life. In the same way that I previously addressed my rock bottom, this is me addressing, “What do I want each day of my life to look like? How simple can I make my happiness?”
For the visual reader, imagine a plot of land. You are going to build a home on it. Prior to building the home, you will pour a foundation. This foundation is how you want to live your life. Think of this. How would you like to live each day? Where do you truly want to be investing your time and energy? Get specific. Is it in a car to and from work for 45 minutes daily? Is it at events you don’t care for? Is it having tea with friends? Is it compromising your true desires because you don’t have the courage to make a bold decision, or maybe you don’t know how? Once you answer these questions you can pour your foundation and begin to build your home. Your life.
This foundation is so important for me because for the years prior, I was attempting to build rooms meant for a second floor, or renting a room in someone else’s home. I wasn’t being intentional about deciding how I wanted to live.
In this process, you may have noticed that I failed to mention “work”. Too often, we define ourselves by our work. It’s the second question we’re asked after our name, “So what do you do?” If I were to ask you, “who are you?” would you say: Son or daughter of so and so? Believer of this? Practicer of that? Or would you default to your name, where you are from and what you do? “Do” meaning where you show up during the week in order to be paid every two weeks. The definition of who we are cannot be limited to the actions that generate income. I didn’t want to work to support a lifestyle. I wanted to create a lifestyle and then discover where “work” as we know it fits in.
What is important for me with work is to design my life in such a way that keeps me creative. To read and write more. To be involved in wellness. So I launched brands and events and began to write. Again, I returned to the question: “What will I enjoy doing for now and for life? What are the projects and bodies of work that I wish to add to my portfolio right now even if they generate little income? Will I be satisfied?” I know what failure would look like for me, but I also don’t fail. I won’t fail. I’ve replaced the word “fail” with “learn”. Each time we innovate, each time we try, and it does not return the desired outcome, we are not failing. Better, we are learning. It’s this definition that propels me to either continue investing in myself or to learn. It is not that I reject a more traditional lifestyle, it’s that for a long time I wasn’t choosing myself. Now, and every day forward, I become more comfortable choosing myself. It’s as if a doormat in my home reads “I will no longer compromise for a paycheck.”
Designing your life as opposed to rearranging it is a riskier move. If I at 27 am able to define what I love and want to make life’s work, then I have 73 years build it. If I delay this process and then at 40, come to ask these questions, I have 13 fewer years to build my life’s work. That is why I advocate for the now.
We are mortal beings. Life is not void of tragedy and unfortunately, we do not have tomorrow’s newspaper to confirm our existence. For me, mortality is the original motivator. I only have 73 years left to live. It’s not worth it for me to delay action, nor do I see the value in building someone else’s dream. Someone else’s house. I am meant to build my dream house.
This essay is not meant to be a “pursue your passion” message. It is also not a “tomorrow is a mystery, yesterday is history, and today is a gift that’s why we call it the present.” Rather, this is an acknowledgment that we have the tools and resources to design the exact life we want, and an encouragement to go through the exercise of evaluating where you are in relation to your goals. What do you really want to be doing every single day? And, the process of designing our life is not dismissive of strategy, work ethic, or duration. I do not believe we simply write out what we want and it is delivered to us without any action. Actually, I reject that. I recognize we all have time and energy, and advocate for a complete investment of that into ourselves and our dreams, not reserving an evening or weekend, but all of our days because our life is an everyday thing. We must make decisions every day to choose ourselves daily. We fend off discouragement. We stay the course. And each time we to invest in ourselves, the reward is so much sweeter.
As I design my life, I am taking a risk and betting on myself. I do not know if I will succeed, but I do know that I will be fulfilled. I will be happy. I will be learning. I will be growing. Too often, we define success by the continuous growth in our bank accounts, but for a moment, define your success on your personal happiness, on how you speak to yourself, and how you view yourself. Then understand that you have the power to design the exact life that matches those answers.
When Mary Oliver died not too long ago, I was introduced to this quote:
"The most regretful people on earth, are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time”
By now it is likely clear to you that I resonate with this and identify as a creative. How these words are received by you, is your choice, but if I may: do not resist the ideas or actions that excite you, and do not compromise your life. You may only have 73 years left to live.
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