I don’t know if it’s my age, or the fact that I’m just busier, but the days seem longer and fuller as I move along the journey of life. From the moment I get up to the moment I put my head on my pillow, my mind is constantly moving down the list of things I need to do that – interviews for work, errands, prescriptions to pick up, gym clothes and lunch to pack, emails to answer. It’s almost like I’m never really in the moment – I’m either thinking ahead to what comes next, or I’m thinking about what I should have done, in order to meet the next deadline, whether it’s a feature for work or a running workout or getting my car inspected.
When I passed the 4-0 mark last year, I started evaluating what I had done with my life, and what I really wanted to do with the rest of my time. Like everyone, I don’t know how long I’ll live, but I started thinking, if my eventual life span is 80, then I’m at the halfway point. Out of all the things I wanted to do, what will I regret the most if I don’t check it off my list? What are the things that I thought were important, but realize now that I’m happy never came to fruition?
To steal a quote from The Shawshank Redemption, I suddenly felt like I needed to break out of my rut and either ‘get busy living or get busy dying’. The dying part may seem overly dramatic, but in a way, it’s true. I once heard that we’re born dying (I think even in the biological sense we are dying as we live, our cells breaking down and die as we age), and it’s easy to think you have all the time in the world when you’re 20. But the gap between 20 and 40 almost seems like a blur now. Two decades is nothing, when you think about it.
The bottom line is, we spend so much of our time rushing around, trying to meet the various deadlines we are tasked with meeting, that it’s easy to forget about the biggest deadline of all – the final deadline. The deadline where we take our last breath and move on to heaven (or whatever you think the next stage is after we die). Unlike other deadlines, we never know what the exact date or time of this deadline will be. Will it come suddenly in an accident, or slowly as disease ravages us? Will the deadline come too soon, in our youth, or will we pass the century mark?
Like other deadlines, we should be thinking ahead about what we need to accomplish to meet our own final deadline. Did we accomplish everything we set out to do, whether it’s writing a book, running a marathon or climbing a mountain? Did we take time to show our families we love them, to let our friends know how important they are to us? Did we take the time to call our loved ones, to spend time with them while we could? Were we true to ourselves? Did we listen to our inner voice and take the road less traveled, or did we stay on the main path (and do we regret it?) Were we honest with ourselves about who we were and what we wanted? Was there that special someone who got away, or you were blessed to have found true love and a true partner in life?
It’s easy to get caught up in life and think, I can always do these things tomorrow. But the final deadline may be sooner than you expect – it may be tomorrow. So take the time to think about what you want – pencil it into your planner, if you think it will help. But as you plan your life around all the deadlines, make sure you’re working to meet the last and most important of all.