How do I want to spend the next five years of my life?
How do I want to spend the final five years of my life?
Do those questions provoke different answers? I think so, but I don’t actually know. I like my life. I’m happy almost every day.
If I knew I had only five years to live, surely some things would change. But I’m just not good enough at putting myself in that position, at really running that simulation in my head. When I try, I usually start with small adjustments to my current life: I’d worry about schoolwork less. Maybe not do a thesis. Probably still do PBL.
I would probably read more fiction – one of my favorite pastimes. Or I might give it up, thinking that my time in this world is limited enough, I want to spend it in this world.
Then my simulations diverge. Would I stay in med school? Could I justify the resource cost, when I won’t be able to recoup it? Am I happier here than I would be elsewhere? What other life could I construct? And then the options stretch too far, and the simulation unravels.
So back up a bit, and zoom in on one piece of my life: My family. Would my partner and I decide to have a child right away so that that child and I could have as long as possible together? Or not to have a child at all, since I wouldn’t be able to stick around for them? Thinking these thoughts, I start to feel claustrophobic. Only five years – it begins to feel too tight, too constraining. I remember where I was five years ago, what I’ve done in the mean time, how I’ve changed and grown. Those were five good years. I learned a lot. I had fun. I loved and was loved abundantly. Looking forward, the next five feel more crowded than the last five feel in retrospect. A matter of perspective.
And, really, how different is a five-year window from a fifty-year window? One measly order of magnitude doesn’t really register on a cosmic scale. And if I were comparing 50 to 500, fifty would no doubt feel claustrophobic. My default expectation of a ‘full life’ of just shy of 100 years is just a culturally imposed default.
But I can’t escape that cultural imposition. So what do I do with my next five years? What if they’re all I’ve got?