Up personal: What if you had less than ten years left…

I’m 38, at this point in her life my mother had less than ten years left to live.

It makes me think if she had known this, would she make all the same choices? How would she spend her time and who would she spend her time with?

I’ve increasingly been aware of making sure that I value and protect the time that I have, be more conscious about making sure that the decisions I’m making for my personal and work life are based on an active decision to be where I am – to choose, rather than passively becoming a victim of circumstance or expectation. I don’t want to be an innocent bystander in my own life. I don’t want to blink and realise I’ve wasted the time given to me on things I don’t care about. It may sound unambitious, but my big hope is that, when the end comes, I can leave this world feeling content about how I lived my life, whether good or bad things happen, things work out or not, this for me will come from knowing I walked my own path.

This isn’t easy. We all get sucked into comparing ourselves with others, being influenced to see success based on what the world around us defines it as and doing what our influencers want us to do or expect us to do.

Conversations with friends, family, social media, TV, Movies, news all influence us and create an expectation of what path to take in order to be viewed as being successful. However, what is more important, keeping up with your batch mate’s career trajectory and salary and living up to the perception of success, or pursuing something you love? Once we look outside for validation, we’re in trouble. To help myself avoid these distractions, I try and ask myself one key question: “Are you choosing to be where you are right now and are you happy with that choice?”. If the answer is yes, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, it frees you up from the “disease of comparison” and allows you to be happy for others as well as yourself.

I’ve met so many people since moving to India that tell me that they spent years studying to get a degree they have no passion for, just because their families or peer groups expected it. After committing 4-6 years studying engineering for example, they then finally start pursuing the path of their own passions. 4-6 years, gone, you can’t ever get that time back, doing something just to fulfil the wishes and expectations of someone else. These decisions are justified by duty and respect for one’s parents, but for me, we instead have a responsibility and duty to make sure that we cannot blame anyone else for the life we lead, we have no excuses. As a parent now, I know that I would never want to know that my children spent time living their lives based on my desires and not theirs. I will have had my life, why should I take control of theirs away from them. Do I really know what is best? Isn’t the best simply what makes them happy, what they are passionate about, and if so, aren’t they the best judge of that?

I’m not saying don’t take advice, guidance and counsel, I’m not saying be selfish and don’t think of others, my point is that whatever we choose to do must ultimately come from within, come from our own will and desire if we are to look back on those choices with fondness instead of regret. We don’t have to know where we’re going to end up, but making choices along the way driven by our hearts should lead us to a good place.

We seem to so easily give away our time when it is the most precious thing we have. It seems to be that only when we face our own mortality do we begin to focus on the right things and protect this gift. We write off so many days, weeks and years hoping that one day the moment will come to start our chosen journey, why not instead start it today?