I started reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything recently. In the introduction, one paragraph in particular made me realize that the next 500 pages are going to be an eye opening, mouth dropping, pants pooping journey:
The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting – fleeting indeed. Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.
When you break it down like that, it really puts life into perspective. 650,000 hours. That’s roughly 27,083 days. Add in the fact that you’ve already been living, and if you’re reading this you’re likely (at the very least) 21 years old, that gives you 466,032 hours, or 19,418 days. Even less for me. And probably you too.
That’s scary. And inspiring. If anything, it makes me want to start getting things done. It makes every sentence that starts with “Someday I want to…” or “When I get some time I really need to…” irrelevant. Someday will be today. I don’t need to “get time.” I need to use what I’ve already been given.
Nothing motivates me like a deadline. And in this case, that deadline is literal.
When you put a tanglible value on the amount of time you have to live, every hour counts. Sure, these numbers are pretty high – nearly meaningless – for someone in their 20s. However:
Say I decide to watch Breaking Bad starting tomorrow. There are 5 seasons with 62 episodes total. At 48 minutes an episode, that’s 52 hours of my life devoted to passively watching the best show that was or ever will be.
Now, let’s say I decide to watch every episode of Game of Thrones, Homeland, Weeds, The Office, 30 Rock, and The Simpsons as well. I mean, it’s just 20 minutes or an hour here or there, right? I’ve been watching these show my whole life.
Well, if I add the time it takes to watch every episode of every season of those shows to my Breaking Bad bingefest, that’s 489 hours of my life. And that’s just TV. Add in movies, commuting, reading pointless things on the internet, Candy Crush, and showering, and that number grows immensely.
I don’t mean to rag on TV and film – they’re amazing mediums that I hope to day one contribute to. But when it comes down to it, we waste a lot of the limited time we have. It’s easy to zone out after work for 2 hours in front of the TV or your phone or whatever it is you choose to use to destress. Sometimes it’s needed. However it’s easy to let it get out of control.
When I struggle with the decision of watching another episode of House of Cards or working on something meaningful to me, I remember that my atoms plan on mutinying me. Even though I’m still growing, my time is fading. It always will be, so it’s best not to waste what’s left.
The clock ticks incessantly. I’m not going to drown it out with southern twang of Frank Underwood. I’m going to let it fill the room, poke it’s way into my brain, and force me to finish that screenplay I’ve been meaning to write.