By Troy Headrick
Exactly two weeks ago today my grandmother died. This past weekend, I received a text from Robin, a wonderful person and the most senior tutor in our writing center, letting me know that her elderly father had passed away in small-town Ohio, so she has been gone from work these past three days. Then, just yesterday, Michael, another one of tutors and a fellow who’s busy at work on a master’s degree, informed me that his favorite uncle had just departed from this life. Death, it seems, is going around.
With the passage of all these individuals we are reminded that life is short. Our end is just around the corner. Death is out there, waiting for its moment to pull us away. None of us will be able to resist this pull. This makes death the great equalizer.
This raises an important question: How are we to live NOW given that none of us have forever?
At the root of this question is the notion of “quality.” If our quantity of time is finite, how are we to best manage those days, months, and years we have in front of us? I would argue we need to begin thinking—right this minute—less about quantity and more about quality of life. (I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t eat well, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly as a well of enhancing our health and thus prolonging our lives.) I am arguing that we need to think more about how we want to manage our time so that we feel like we are living well—that we are living lives which feel meaningful.
I have been thinking about quality of life a lot lately. That’s likely mostly due to the fact that I don’t feel perfectly happy right now. I’m in a job that I like but that pays very little, too little, in fact. My wife has a business that is slowly growing, but we don’t have terrific financial security. Call me weird if you want, but I’ve always been the type who needs to make enough money to feel untroubled by financial matters. If I feel financially secure, I have peace of mind. How much is peace of mind worth? Answer: a lot.
Also, I have almost no time off which makes it difficult for me to be as actively engaged in creative pursuits as I’d like to be. This lack of free time also makes it virtually impossible for me to travel internationally. (My wife gets to go to Egypt once a year to see her family, but I’m constantly stuck in the United States.) If traveling enlarges a person (and I believe it does), then I’m just getting smaller and smaller right now.
And lastly, because we are so outrageously busy, I have very little time to simply unplug—to meditate, to read, to spend quiet time pondering things. I have always enjoyed residing in my head, and unfortunately, I am so busy chasing the almighty dollar that I’ve almost no time to be alone with my thoughts. If I keep going at this rate and in this direction, I fear that I’ll simply become a body without a mind.
So, here’s what I’m doing about all this. My wife and I are thinking about throwing in the towel and doing something really different, perhaps even risky. We have the possibility to go “off the grid” in rural Egypt or we have the chance to do other equally interesting things, mostly in foreign countries. All these options will help solve the quality issues I mentioned earlier. Right now, neither one of us is very happy. And we know it boils down to us not feeling very empowered or free (and certainly not very secure either).
How much do you think about quality of life and the sorts of things I wrote about here? I’d love to get your feedback on what I’ve said and about the plans I’m making with my wife.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.