Wrapping your mind around your life is pretty hard because you are up to your neck in it. It’s like trying to understand the ocean while learning how to swim. On most days you are busy just keeping your head above water. So it is not easy to figure out what to do with your life and how to spend your time. There are a million distractions. Your family, friends, and romantic partners, boring work, and exciting projects. Video games to play and books to read.
And then there is your couch that somebody needs to lie on. It’s easy to get lost. So let us take a step back and take a look at your life from the outside. The average Kurzgesagt viewer is around 25 years old. Which is a pretty good time in the life of most people: The insecurities of the teenage years have begun to recede. Maybe you find yourself in a job or a long-term relationship. Maybe you’ve started a family, or are working on an advanced degree.
Maybe you are not doing any of that and still want to enjoy life, whatever that means to you. Or maybe you feel stuck and don’t know where to go yet. About one in twenty people watching this video will get to live to 100. Let’s assume you are one of the lucky ones, which means you had a total of 5200 weeks of life at your disposal when you were born. You spent the first 600 weeks of your life being a kid and 400 being a teenager. During this time you were pretty useless for society and also not very free to make your own decisions.
As a payoff, you were somewhat spared from the consequences and responsibilities of adulthood. Mostly because well-meaning adults protected you by cleaning up your mess and giving you time to find yourself. This time is necessary to make you, at least in theory, a functioning human. Although most people probably don’t feel like that after puberty. In any case, by the time you are 20, over 1000 of your 5200 weeks have passed. Depending on what you aspire to, at this point you are either working already or have entered further education.
The amount of fun you can have in this phase of your life varies a lot. If you pick up a trade or need to work to support yourself or others, the serious side of life begins earlier, if you go to university you get to push back work life a bit longer. In any case, most people start working for real in their twenties at the latest. Which begins the productive or potentially grindy or soul-crushing period of your life.
People tend to work until the age of 65. This means that you’ll spend at least 2000 weeks of your life, with serious adult work – hopefully in a job that makes you feel good and appreciated that makes the world better. This is such an important thing that we’ll look at at work and how you can try to find a satisfying career in another video! This is the main block of life for most people – The time when you might have kids and travel a bit and climb the career ladder and build a house, may get divorced and fall in love again.
In this phase, you transition from being young to middle-aged to old – not old, old but the “young old” of your sixties. At 65 you have used up 3400 of your 5200 weeks. The last phase of your life begins. If you’ve managed to acquire enough wealth to retire, in theory, you are now free to do whatever you like, for up to 1800 weeks. But of course, this is not how it works for the majority of you watching this video.
19 out of 20 people will not live to one hundred. The average lifespan in the US is 79. In Germany it is81. In Japan 84. In Brazil, it is 75. If you die at age 80, which is still not bad, you only have 780 weeks of freedom after you retire. That’s rough as many weeks of freedom as an old person as you spent as a child. Unfortunately disease and the tiredness of age trip you up here, because with old age the human body begins to decline sharply. For example, the vast majority of cancer-related deaths occur in people over 70.
If you bet all your fun cards on being free and happy in your retirement you might be bitterly disappointed. And all of this is still assuming things work out and you even get to grow old. You can drown in a pool at age 7, get cancer at age 32, die in a car crash at age 48. You can fall from a ladder at age 60. Every day the universe rolls a bunch of dice for every human– and every day, someone somewhere on this planet, rolls a critical failure and their life ends that day.
The older you get, the more dice are rolled for you. Usually, when you swim through the ocean that is your life, you do not think about all of this too much and that is fine. Life is engaging enough by itself and the future is this undefined weird thing. But thinking about it from time to time is helpful in refocusing on what you want to do and minimizing regrets you will have when you look back.
And to remind you that if you don’t use your time today, you might not get a chance to use it tomorrow. Life is complicated and it is hard to make decisions between all the things and people that are important to you. This has become painfully obvious to billions of people during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you respected social distancing, so many things that we took for granted were not available anymore.
Traveling and public places and eating out and seeing friends and meeting new people. Spending time together became limited and precious. But actually, the time you have with the people you love is already precious. Think of your parents. As a child, you spend basically every day with them. Your time spent together begins to decline as you transition and become a teenager and fight to develop your own identity.
But as teenagers, you probably still see them regularly, which changes as you enter your twenties when most people move out. For university, for work or just to be on their own. If you are making an effort to be with your parents for two full weeks each year for the rest of their lives, which covers the main holidays, birthdays, and a bit extra you still have already spent more than 90% of the time you will ever spend with them, even if they grow pretty old.
If they die earlier or if you see them only a few days each year this number shrinks even more. So in all likelihood, the vast majority of the time you will ever spend with your parents has passed. The same holds true for your siblings or old friends that moved to the other side of the country. You are at the tail end of the time with some of the most important people in your life. One day you will see them for the last time. And it is actually the same with everything else.
The concept of doing something for the last time feels eerie, like something that you should only experience when you are on death row or extremely old or something like that. But it happens all the time. Is there a hobby you have been lazy about for a long time? Maybe you still have those Warhammer minis that you wanted to paint? Did you always want to revisit that place where you had an amazing time a decade ago?
Is there someone you wanted to reach out to for a long time but haven’t yet? Or pick up that sport again to meet new friends? Maybe you will never do any of these things again because life gets in the way and at some point, it is too late. As the global Pandemic begins to wind down, we will all soon be able to be with each other again and do fun things together. It is never a bad time to reach out to a friend, or a potential friend and let them know that you are looking forward to hanging out.
But no matter when you are watching this: our life is an incredible gift and there is so many fun, engaging, and fulfilling things to do. And you get to decide what and who matters to you. But what matters the most is that you actually make decisions from time to time.
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