All my life I have been counting time. Back in high school I would count my time in hours, or even fractions of an hour. "Half an hour left of this class period." "Two more hours until school is out." In university I started counting in weeks. "This project is due in week six of the semester." "Only one more week of classes left." "Ugh, finals week." In the workplace I measure time in "man-days", but often from the larger perspective of months or quarters.
The first month of this year has left me increasingly aware of the fleeting nature of time, and subsequently life. The days pass by so quickly and often I will wake up on a Saturday morning and wonder where the past week went. Even on a daily basis I have noticed just how quickly five, ten, fifteen minutes can disappear in the blink of an eye, to the point where it pains me to see those precious minutes slipping away.
Today I decided I need to look at my life from 10,000 feet. It is so easy to get engrossed in day-to-day circumstances and lose sight of what truly matters.
As part of this, I have started building some tools to help me visualize my life.
The first visualization is my life in weeks. Each cell represents one week of my life. The filled cells are weeks in the past, and the empty cells represent weeks in the future. While I am certainly not the first person to do this, making it personal makes the weight more palpable.
We grow older and we sigh,
Older still, and then we die!
— Fin de Siècle, Edmund Vance Cooke
The other visualization I put together is a set of timers for visualizing my age. There are currently three, although I may add more as new goals or miletones come to mind. The first timer shows how long I have lived thus far. This forces me to reflect on what I have accomplished thus far and whether it has been worth my while. The second counts down to my next birthday to help me stay focused on improving my present self. And the third counts down to my death. I have it set to ninety years of age as a ballpark figure just so I have something to shoot for. The death timer serves to inspire me to work my hardest until time is up.
There will be more work done on these and other tools as I continue to deepen my understanding of myself and how I view the human experience.
I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.
— Tracee Ellis Ross
I find myself still very much terrified by what the future holds. The fear of wasting the talents and opportunities I have been given and not living up to my potential can be crippling at times. As the month of January draws to a close, it is my hope that focusing on the fleetingness of life will allow me to identify which areas of my life need a shift in focus.