I was reading through my Harry Potter books the other day, and it started a train of thought about death, our mortality and how it shapes the decisions we make, especially in regards to spending money.
I promise this won’t be a depressing post. At least, it wasn’t to me. It frees you up to think about what you should be doing today.
WE WILL EVENTUALLY PASS ON, ONE DAY OR ANOTHER
Some sooner than others, but eventually everyone dies. Hopefully it’s in a bed, where your body gives out gently with no pain or any diseases to speak of.
But eventually, we will all die.
Death and taxes, these are both certainties and facts of life.
I see this as a rather good thing because it gives us a flexible and also inflexible view on what we should choose to do with our time and our life.
We know our time is limited, so we plan accordingly by saving for retirement for when we are too old and creaky to get up at 6 a.m. to go to work.
WHAT IF EVERYONE LIVED FOREVER?
I couldn’t think of a more horrible idea than living forever.
At first glance, it sounds great.
You, your friends, family, everyone living forever and having a grand old time.
(Despicable Me screenshot. I love this film!)
Not only would this put a serious strain on our planet’s resources, but aside from practical reasons, you’d all get bored eventually.
Maybe not with your friends or family (or maybe WITH them?), but you’d get bored of life because it has no finite time period attached to it.
You’d hear about, read about and talk to the same people for the next infinite number of years, and there wouldn’t be anyone new or interesting to change it up, and anyone who grew up in a world of immortals, would be seen as too young to know anything – they’d more than likely not be allowed to rule a country.
THAT’S SICK, I MISS MY GRANDPARENTS!
I miss my elderly neighbour and my one grandmother too!
(Never really interacted with the rest of my grandparents as a kid or had much extended family.)
But while there are plenty of people whom I wish were still alive today, but I cherish them and their memories even more by the fact that I wish desperately to be more like them — less impulsive, calmer, more rational — these are all things I have to work on, and am finding it very hard to do without a role model to guide my thoughts, either dead or alive.
Sometimes my memories of them are rosier than what the reality was like, and I think I’d prefer it that way.
TIME WOULD BECOME A LESS VALUABLE RESOURCE
Would we even bother caring about saving for retirement?
We’d never retire!
We’d work just to stave off boredom.
That great trip around the world you wanted to take?
You could do it, or put it off for the next 100 years out of sheer procrastination or laziness.
Photograph I took of Lisbon, Portugal
Time becomes less valuable rather than being the finite resource it is today.
Want to learn about a specific subject in detail? Why bother studying for it today? You can just do it sometime in the future, like say in 1000 years.
IT FREES YOU UP TO REALIZE THAT LIFE IS LIMITED SO DON’T WASTE IT
Rather than being a depressing chestnut being tossed around of:
What a life.
You work, you owe money/taxes, and by the time you get to actually enjoy your life and the fruits of your labour, you’re ready to die.
You realize that your time is limited.
This in and of itself, freed me up to ask 3 questions that basically made me realize what kind of life I want to live:
- Is this what I want to be doing for the rest of my life?
- Is what I am doing able to sustain me for when I don’t want to work in retirement?
- Are the people I am meeting and spending my precious time with, the people I want to see?
Sounds a bit harsh, maybe elitist to some, but I really do choose where to spend or not spend my time and money.
It’s mine to spend, after all.
FOR WHO I WANT TO SEE:
I am not in the slightest bit interested in talking or meeting with some people I have met over my life.
They’re perfectly lovely, nice people, but they’re not who I want to see for whatever the reason may be.
That’s absolutely fine, because I too, am someone whom another person doesn’t want to meet with either, and I’m thrilled that such choices exist in polite society.
This lets me RSVP to things I want to say like:
No thank you, I don’t want to accept that invitation to go to your baby shower, because you were someone I really didn’t get along with in business school, and we both know it.
I’m pretty sure you’re just doing it because you want all the attention (AGAIN) and I’d even have to fork over an expensive registered gift to boot, for your child whom I have no desire of ever visiting once he or she is born.
Thank you for your invite, desperately fishing for gifts, but I’d rather keep my money for people I actually love and care for, because they were there for me even when I didn’t want to become a ruthless investment banker like you, and as a result, backhanded our mutual friends for marks.
In reality, I write a nice brush-off that is accepted as good social etiquette everywhere:
Please accept my thanks in having been invited to your baby shower, but unfortunately, I will not be able to attend.
Some of you might ask: “But who will go to YOUR baby shower!? FREE GIFTS!”
Who says I’m even having one when I have kids?
For one thing, there’s nothing that I want to buy that I can’t buy for my own future kids.
Money is nice, but I don’t need it either. Maybe the person giving it, can’t afford it and should very well keep that money for their bills.
I don’t even particularly think that people enjoy giving basic essentials at a baby shower, which is what I thought the whole point of a baby shower was.
It’s always something cutesy, or impractical that they’ll grow out of in 2 minutes.
The last baby shower I went to, I gave the most practical things on her list — all those nipple cover things, diapers, receiving blankets, soothers, everything that I could think of that would help a new mother.
Others went bonkers off the registry, and instead of buying diapers, bought fun, exciting, pretty toys that I can predict, will go unused for the most part (hope she got a gift receipt to return it all).
I’m also fairly sure that I too, will end up with junk I and the kid will never use, with more to come once the kid actually comes out and has regular, annual birthday celebrations.
“But the social interaction to celebrate his/her new life and how big you got”, you cry..!
Then the whole thing of trying to guess how fat I became while being 8 months pregnant?
I can do without that, thanks.
Or trying to wrap toilet paper around me to guess how big I got?
Again, no thanks.
I do like the idea of getting together to celebrate a new life, but my instinct tells me this will be happening regardless of a planned baby shower.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be cooed over, petted, asked to sit down a million times, and have overeager strangers come up and excitedly rub my belly for good luck.
All of that is tolerable for me, because it’s nice to see how a baby can bring such joy to strangers who don’t even know what kind of person you can be sometimes, but mostly because it’s what I’ve been doing to my friends who have been pregnant
(sans the belly rubbing thing; I already know that it’s impolite to do so without asking, especially as some creepy stranger who doesn’t look like a grandparent)
The attention will already be there, I can do without the rest of it.
FOR WHERE I GO:
As a traveler, I have no interest in the slightest in visiting Africa, Russia, or the Middle East.
I know plenty of adventurers who are thrilled at the chance to visit such untouched, beautiful landscapes, to interact with cultures so very unlike their own, and to live on the edge of danger in some cases, but I am not one of them.
Photograph I took in Portugal of a very old stone home — this is as untouched as it gets for me.
I also don’t go to events that are a waste of my time.
I avoid parties and get-togethers with people I don’t enjoy talking to because I’ve already met them once, twice, even thrice, and they were insufferable each time.
I don’t need (or want) to go out of my way to be mean to anyone, but why should I force myself to interact with people I don’t like, when my time is already limited?
Life really is too short.
Although I must admit that I enjoy going to events to meet new people, such as meeting readers, blogger meet-ups, or anything where I think I might meet an interesting stranger to talk to and share ideas with.
You never know.
Even if I don’t meet anyone for a long period of time, I’m okay with that too.
I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert (I don’t thrive off the energy of others), and I’m content with being by myself and having fewer, but higher quality interactions.
FOR WHAT I DO:
I also don’t spend my money on hobbies and activities that I don’t want to do.
Playing the piano?
Yes please. I’ll put in a few thousand for a nice digital piano that can travel around with me.
(I really want this Roland 700NX some day. It plays like a dream.)
Playing the violin?
Put that thing away, I was never a fabulous student at it even after 5 years. I can play it, but I don’t enjoy it as much as listening to the real virtuoso who can make my heart sing like Joshua Bell.
It just made me think of a tortured cat, and I was doing it to myself.
But only to countries and areas I actually want to visit and take an interest in, and am able to explore and live like a local for a temporary period of time.
Photograph I took in Port Stanley, Canada
Don’t ask me to go to the Caribbean with you to sit on a beach, get skin cancer, feel down right covered up in my one-piece bathing suit, and have to politely refuse cocktails every half hour because I don’t like to drink.
That is more stressful than relaxing for me, especially if you think about all the armed guards with machine guns patrolling the borders of the resort.
LIVING FOREVER IS NOT THE ANSWER
Living forever is not the answer. Making the most of your time today, and living in the Now, is.
Don’t waste your time in a career that you won’t enjoy.
Slash your budget, live on less, and open your possibilities up to doing WHAT you want rather than what you should, because you have a car payment on a vehicle you couldn’t afford in the first place.
Otherwise, find a career you enjoy that makes good money as well (right, I might as well tell you to go search for a black unicorn right?).
…but it’s really true that you just have to sometimes sit back and not force anything to happen.
Look for jobs, take on things you normally otherwise wouldn’t try, and you never know what you’ll end up in.
Most of all, choose the life you’re living, and do what you want to do, taking into account all the sacrifices you will have to make to live with your choices and values.