I like using the “six months to live” lens to get a grip on my priorities.
You know what I’m talking about, right?
This – “If I had six months left to live, what would I do with my life? Who would I spend time with?”
I’ve always considered this lens to be the best litmus test of if what I’m doing is the best use of my time. With this lens I’ve easily determined that the most important aspects of my life are family, friends and meaningful work. Throw in some good food, fresh air and books and I’m golden.
But recently, I started thinking about it some more. And I had this realization: Why would I want to live my whole life like it’s the last chapter of my book?
Friends and family are important, but does it really make sense to factor them as the highest priority in all situations? Maybe, maybe not.
For example, if my husband, child and I wanted to do some extended traveling, say for a year, doing so doesn’t pass the friends and family litmus test. We’d be away for so long. That’s not what I’d want if my life was ending.
But my life isn’t ending (that I know of). And it’s virtually impossible to predict when it will. So does that mean I should never go on big adventures? Never do anything that takes me away from the anchor of home?
Of course not – that would be ridiculous. Going on big adventures is important for a whole whack of other reasons. It would be hard to be away from my family for so long, but there would be all kinds of benefits to extended travel. Not to mention my closest family – my husband and child – would be right there alongside me.
And that’s only one example. What about moving, or considering where we want to live for the next 5-10 years (or more)? Using the “6 months to live” lens, it makes the most sense to stay local to where most of our friends and family are. Even if there are many sacrifices to doing so.
Forgive this slight digression, but it’s been heavy in my thoughts: Our dream location wouldn’t be too expensive, would be near high-quality daycare, give us the opportunity for plenty of outdoor time, be a unique and beautiful house (my husband’s criteria), have a sizeable vegetarian community with access to great produce and restaurants, have plenty of sunlight, wouldn’t get too cold, and be walkable. I’d probably also want to live somewhere English-speaking. Milder temperatures would also mean not having to drive in extreme conditions like blowing snow, blizzards, and storms so frequently – a major upside for me. Not having hour-long commutes is a major bonus too.
Almost none of these criteria apply to where we currently live. Yet, it’s near friends and family. What to do?
There are other situations in which the “six months” lens falls apart. Say you’re working a job that doesn’t light your soul up. It wouldn’t make sense to quit you job and travel on a whim, or quit your job and write that album you always dreamed of writing – these things require thought and planning.
The “six month” lens is a great one in some ways. Have those meaningful conversations with loved ones, tell them how much they mean to you. Work on that album – make time for it if it’s important. Keep your priorities in mind when you and your child are getting sick of each other at 4:30pm.
But it’s not a great lens in all ways. I only pray that my life story is bursting with interesting chapters, and that my last one is far, far away. There will always be periods where I’m pulled to my family above and beyond any other consideration. But it’s okay to be pulled away from family sometimes as well.
I’m reminded of when I lived in Austin and Toronto between 2013-2015. Those were fond years – difficult, but dear to me. At the end of it, I was ready to be close to my family and enjoy all the familiar comforts of my home province. But I’m so grateful that I lived away. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Now, being home for five years, I’m starting to feel the tug of strings again. The tug of adventure.
I was bothered by it at first, swatting it away like an errant fly, I’ve since come around. It’s all good, it’s all okay, it’s exactly right.
Watch this space.