Michael He

June 20, 2022

Simple Reckoning

Big moments of reckoning can come from simple things. I was listening to piano and started thinking about life. But unlike the usual contemplation, I started putting numbers on everything.

I would not look at life the same again.

There are fifty-two weeks each year and seven days each week. That means if I live to 80 years old, I will have a little more than 4000 weeks. I am almost twenty-three, so about 1200 weeks are already gone, or 30 percent of my life.

Now think about all the things I regret doing and (more importantly) not do in the first third of my life! Granted there are many things out of my control, but there are also some things I had the capacity to change said outcomes, or things I should have dared to do more.

I wanted to study abroad for one year in Tokyo back in high school, but I backed out due to administrative difficulty. I should have visited more restaurants and places in Los Angeles, before COVID shut many down.

But the biggest thing I want to do is to spend more time with my family.

I left home many years ago. Counting up the weeks I get to stay home since then, I spent less than 100 weeks back home in an entire decade. So less than than ten percent of my total life is spent with my loved one. Even if I factor in childhood (assuming 52 weeks each year), that percentage is still far from a big number. It barely hovers above 50 percent.

But here is the kicker.

I don't have the next 2800 weeks to spend with my family. They will be gone even with the best healthcare (unless we cure death). Assume another 30 years together (which is quite generous), that is only 1500 weeks, or slightly more than my life so far.

If I live like many people of my generation, going home only for a week or two each year due to holidays and vacation, that makes it 60 weeks.

SIXTY weeks. In my case, 60 is much less than 10 percent of the time I will ever have to spend. For many people who live with their family up until adulthood (unlike me), this percentage will be even smaller (due to a larger denominator of time already spent together). I am skipping the multiplication, so you can do your own calculation and understand my point even deeper.

If we live with the default cultural setting (I'm so busy, I can only go home only so often), our time with family is guaranteed to be limited. It's guaranteed that we are spending the very end of it with them. The only difference being the last 30 percent, 12 percent, or 3.

I wish I can say I'm ready to accept this truth, since it's based on basic math. But I don't think I'm willing to at the moment.

The clock is ticking. The math is here. There is no turning away.

But life is incredible in that we can make decisions and live by the consequences. We have the power to choose. We can change things. We can also not change things and live not up to our potential.

How much time do I really have to spend with people I care deeply about? Graduating university has not freed up schedules for friends to get together that much. Making more money does not give us the chance to right our past wrongs, especially when it comes to people. Same thing, watching television mindlessly does not rejuvenate our body and soul, which will surely degrade in health over time. Let's not even talk about the halt to learning for many people once they receive a diploma...

Simply put, there are many big choices we have to make in one way or another such as the things above (and many more). We must make the choices, or life chooses for us, guaranteed to be not in our favor. Not asking that one new person for their number may essentially sever the potential red thread forever. Not apologizing for the irrational words may lead to unfixed bridges. Trying to everything all at once will probably result in accomplishing nothing all the time.

As much as the buzzwords go, money is probably not the defining aspect of life (though it is certainly important). Relationship, health, contentment (which I consider closely related to inner peace), they are all very important.

I do not write this for education. I write this for some clarity. All the big things in life seem to be connected. We can at least try to make sense of them and go from there.

We sometimes think too much about things, we forget the obviously important things. The most recent one being my six-year relationship as a fan of BTS, all of those precious memories, now they are in the past (though I certainly look forward to their individual growth).

Let's not take things for granted. Let's all make good decisions on the things that truly matter in life, whatever they may be.

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