A fairly common conversational prompt in drunken and middle school conversations (hopefully on very separate occasions) is, “What would you do if you only had a year to live?” Or six months, or one month, or one week. But no one asks what someone would do if they only had one day, twenty four hours, to live.
Imagine if a doctor told you that you were dying and the moment the words escaped their lips, and the sounds bounced off of your eardrums, and your brain registered the sounds as meaningful language; a timer was set on your life.
What would you do?
In these conversations, no one sets the perimeter of only a day when asking this question because it would feel too short. At least with a minimum of a week, or even just three days, you have a few hours to cope with the situation and plan for the end of your life.
When someone asks, “What would you do if you only had ____ amount of time to live?” they are are not really asking how you would cope with the presumed illness and immense sadness and fear that would likely consume you. They don’t expect you to say you’re going to quit your job and spend that month with your loved ones every waking moment.
They expect you to spit out a list of amazing things you’d like to do before you die. But even then, they’re not asking what kind of strings you would have pull and weird Wikipedia edits you would have to make in order to get away with traveling the world with money you don’t have, kissing the Blarney Stone with strength your terminal illness won’t allow, and meeting Beyonce under the guise of a lie you’d probably never get away with (provided your Wikipedia edits about your alleged relation to Beyonce that you previously made were deleted) in just one week.
The question isn’t really, “What would you do if you only had a much shorter amount of time to live than initially expected?” The question is “What do you want to do in your lifetime?” The problem with people (especially myself) is that they think they have all the time in the world to do everything they want to accomplish.
-Fix the shingles? Why? The weather will be fine tomorrow, and I don’t have time today.
-Do laundry? Why? I have one more set of underpants, and I don’t have time today.
-Iron the curtains? Why? Who does that? Plus, I don’t have time today.
If you are a human who has ever lived a day in the normal adult world, then you know very well that you have time for these things. What you really mean is it is not a priority.
-Exercise? Why? I have plenty of time to get that six pack I want, and right now, it’s not a priority.
Honestly, if you have something better to do than crunches and push-ups, I am certainly no one to judge. But when you replace “I don’t have time,” with other things, it sounds really different.
-Play with my daughter? Why? I’ll have so much more energy tomorrow, and it’s not a priority.
-Lunch with my boyfriend? Why? We haven’t eaten together in months, we’ll be fine today, it’s really not a priority.
-Call my sick grandparent? Why? They’ll probably be there tomorrow, and it’s not a priority.
This is what we do, we tack on a flimsy excuse for not doing the things we want or should do, so we don’t prioritize it, and it doesn’t happen. So we miss out on the things that are really important to us because we always assume there will be time to bond with our kids, or travel, or write, or paint. And there is. I promise you, there is time.
People complain there aren’t enough hours in a day, or the little ones grow up too fast, or more broadly: time is not on our side. The problem isn’t time, it’s that we have too much of it so we don’t do the things we say we’ll do because we think there’s time for it. But instead we squander our time by wasting away in front of the t.v. watching actors do the things we always say we want to do during those drunken middle school conversations.