Not too long ago, I was struck with the concept of time. I felt panicked. I wasn’t moving fast enough. I knew this was self-destructive and pointless, but I kept thinking how I was “behind” in life. There were college grads with a stabler future it seems because they know what they want and they are on the path of it. Every May, I think how a new wave of them are coming out into the world, and I keep getting pushed down by this tide, deeper and deeper into a dark ocean. And it’s true that many of them will wander and get as lost as I am, but it’s also true there are plenty of people who have been on the “right path” from pretty much the get-go. In comparison, I feel so inferior and “behind.”
This got me thinking about time in general, which has always been such an abstract but interesting concept to me. That is why today, I want to talk to you about three sayings. On one hand, you have, “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow,” and, “Life is short.” On the other hand, you are told this much less common mantra, “Live like you have all the time in the world.” They seem like polar opposites. What are you supposed to do? Live like your time is so precious because the future is unclear or live like time is nothing to fear in the assurance of having a long future?
I believe, in the end, all of the sayings are trying to tell us the same thing: Appreciate the now. How you use it. How you think of it. The first saying, “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow,” I feel is especially misconstrued in an unhealthy way, which is what I want to talk about first.
To be honest, I never really liked that saying because I was quite bewildered by it. It felt too unrealistic to me. There were too many ifs, ands, and buts. Although it is very true that I might not survive the following day, to live on edge with this possibility in mind every single day is tiring and ridiculous. Now, you may be thinking I’m taking it too literally, but I think a lot of people do, hence the harmful misunderstanding. They think, “I need to go do something wild–something I wouldn’t normally do. I shouldn’t play it safe. I should go be happy. I should quit my job right now! I should go bungee jumping!” Look, that’s all great and all, but this isn’t quite YOLO-ing (another thing I never really got).
I think the saying makes more sense if you take it in this light: it’s all about appreciating the now. The present moment. It’s about not taking today for granted because it will be gone tomorrow–and you may be gone tomorrow. In that sense, I agree. You shouldn’t take today for granted and wait for it to just go by because you can start anew tomorrow and it’ll be a much better day. “Today’s a bad day, so I’ll just mindlessly get through it and hopefully wake up to a better day.” Nope.
The saying is about how you shouldn’t use up the day thinking of the future in any capacity because there may be no future. If this involves you bungee jumping to add excitement to your life before its untimely end, so be it. It’s telling you not to put things off like this if it’s important to you, but it’s deeper than checking things off a bucket list. You shouldn’t delay gratification so your whole life is on pause. “If I do this, this, and this now, I’ll be happy in the future. I’ll be successful in a year. I’ll be promoted within a month.” That’s not really living like you’re going to die tomorrow if all you’re thinking about are future prospects.
People are so into the idea of hustling and taking advantage of the now that they’re not noticing the time that’s going by. It’s making you think about how you’ve already been saying you’re going to go bungee jumping for the last five years, so what’s the holdup?
The second saying, of life being too short, is similar to the previous one, except I think it focuses a bit more on moving on from the past than preparing for the future. As you read this, seconds have passed and you won’t ever get them back. Life is too short to hold grudges or focus on regrets. You have to just keep on living, choosing that peace of mind, instead of being hung up on this or that from your past. This seizes you with the panic of the fleeting moments. It’s all quite fear- and anxiety-inducing. I get the well-intentioned meaning behind it.Life is too short to hold grudges or focus on regrets. You have to just keep on living, choosing that peace of mind, instead of being hung up on this or that from your past. Click To Tweet
However, both of these sayings give a sense of urgency that might put people into a frenzy. There is an unhealthiness to both quotes from introducing the prospect of a short life. The mantras of “Live today like we’re going to die tomorrow” or “Life is short” sometimes only succeed in fueling our impatience for progress, our need to be satisfied now, because they can be twisted in this manner of thinking: We’re not where we want to be right now, so what if we do die tomorrow? Since life is short and all that? We would not have accomplished anything. We would not be remembered for anything.
We need to slow down. We need to see the time passing right at this moment for the important things in life that keep us sane as well as think that there will be more time in the future to get to our dreams and goals in life because nothing worth having can be gained immediately.
So while this post is really about finding the right balance–or at least acknowledging the variant of time in life–I do want to shine more light on the opposite spectrum of the sayings I’ve mentioned already by now bringing up the third: “Live like you have all the time in the world.” This is truly the main focus of today. My first purpose was to show you what it really means to live like you’re going to die tomorrow: appreciation, carpe diem in a healthy way. Now my second is to show you the simultaneous importance of doing the opposite: enjoyment of the journey over immediate self-gratification. Both points show what we should be doing now, and what we can hold off on until later.
We should enjoy the now. The today. This doesn’t mean we have to take full advantage of the now for the future. We need to act like we have all the time in the world for the things that take time and are worth it in the end. We can’t rush into things.
I fear I’m wasting time here and wasting time there. That fear sometimes holds me back from even attempting something for fear of all the time put in that will have amounted to nothing. It’s all a silly notion, but I calmed myself down by thinking, “I have all the time in the world.” I won’t get to where I want to get immediately. This is something that’s hard for almost every generation of youths to grasp, perhaps especially now with millennials’ and their shortened attention spans and sense of entitlement. Not to mention, there’s the jarringly fast pacing of the modern world with ample opportunity for comparison with others through social mediaLife--whether it's for one more day or 100 more years--is all a journey. It is not a race. We have to take steps now in investment of the future, all the while focusing on what we have already to be grateful for today. Click To Tweet
So if you are freaking out like me about “when” you are in life right now, you can think to yourself, “All this worry is for naught as I may very well die tomorrow. All I can do now is to keep on going forward like I have all the time in the world to get to where I want to go.” Take back the meaning of time by reassessing the first two statements and internalizing the third.
In conclusion, along with the concept of time in general, I want to share with you a quote I came upon recently that I really enjoyed:
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
– Lao Tzu
Live now with the thought of having as much of a future as you need to shape your life the way you want it to end, but have no regrets now by practicing gratitude for the moments you know for sure that you have–which are only the moments you are in right now.
I hope that makes sense! Time is tricky to talk about, but it’s a concept I’m always intrigued by. Please share how you view time or any quotes you may have regarding this since I love quotes a lot!
Now, follow me on Twitter and go and live your life!