Is Life Really Short?

We all heard a lot of quotes that 'life is short' from a lot of people, whether it's our grandmother or Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. They probably have said that because life expectancy was much lower than it is today. Nowadays, we live 30-40 years longer than people living a century or a millennia ago.

So why is it that such belief still persists to this day? Is life really short relative to our life expectancy? How long do we really have to live? Your guess is as good as mine.

It's All About the Numbers

Thanks to modern medicine, vastly improved nutrition, and greater food options, we all live longer than ever before as global life expectancy is 72.98 years as of 2022 as compared to 45.51 years in 1950. However, it varies from country to country with Monaco (89.17 years) and Japan (86.5 years) on top while South Africa (52.12 years) and Namibia (50.58 years) are at the bottom. To put it in proper perspective, an average Filipino is expected live up to 75 years, two years higher than the global average.

Let's assume that you will overcome all the health complications and tragedies throughout your lifetime and you reach that expected life years. It's not too bad, but that accounts for everything from birth. But what about now? How much time left do you think you will have?

You will have to subtract your age from the life expectancy so in my case, I will have at least 35 more potential years in life, which is 12,775 days or 306,600 hours. However, there is still sleep time that has to be considered. Since we spend about eight hours of sleep every night, that means I will lose about 102,200 hours or about 11.67 years. With that being said, I will have about 23.33 years of my waking life left. That's a scary but real prospect when that's the only time left that you can do something productive. And we're not even counting on other things we do every day like the time we spent commuting, taking the shower, or going to the toilet.

Considering those factors would mean removing a much larger chunk of time. An average Filipino is expected to commute for 257 hours annually. Factoring that out in my case would mean that I will expect to lose 8,995 hours or 1.03 years of my remaining time. We spend 30 minutes of bath time every day so that roughly adds up to 6,387.5 hours or 0.73 year deducted from my remaining time. About 10 minutes maximum time is what we spend on the toilet so that correlates to 1,277.5 hours or 0.15 year deducted from my remaining time. All in all, I will have about 21.42 years of productive life ahead of me.

Wishing for the Weekend

We all have to work for a living until we all retire at the age of 67 years (global average) but some of us may have to work even longer than that depending on where we live. According to the Department of Local Employment here in the Philippines, Filipinos are expected to retire between 60 to 65 years. That means I will only have about a 10-year retirement time to enjoy.

With the Great Resignation in full effect, a lot of people are moving away from full-time office jobs and working for themselves as freelance professionals. I considered that option after working in the tech industry and OFW for years. Imagine an average of eight hours per day removed from family and friends with your eyes firmly focused on your computer screen all throughout your prime working years, how much time do you have lost by then?

A study conducted by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies shows that 40% of Filipinos have academic credentials beyond their job requirements, which results in only 5% more income from extra schooling. With 39% "over-educated" and about 25% "undereducated," it results in lower job satisfaction.

If you hate or dread your job then you have less time to enjoy life. Since I moved away from office work, I will have to save a large chunk of my time from getting stuck in the car or bus commuting and enduring long hours in a cramped office cubicle.

When you're working on weekdays every single day of your productive years, you will end up wishing for the weekends instead. So what if I were still working in an office? There are 260 working days in the Philippines every year so I will have to lose 52,000 hours or 5.93 years working till I retire which means, I will have 15.49 years left to do what I would like to do aside from work.


Once you survived the ravages of time and managed to reach retirement age, you probably want to get back the 'lost time' to do what you want and spend more time with family and friends. The question is, will you be able to do it at all?

By the time you reach that age, there is already a 68% chance of getting a disability or mental impairment at that age. That age is not exactly the perfect time of your life to hold out for and claim as years filled with enjoyment and happiness. We should probably take at least a portion of those days away. As you grow older, the likelihood of developing or worsening health conditions only increases.

If you're just living on weekends, you will only have 15 odd more years to enjoy your life. And before you used up all those days, always remember that there will always be bad weekends. Oftentimes, there will be days where you have to do things you really hate doing - house chores, yard work, dealing with annoying personal stuff or even going to work overtime.

Regardless of your age, who you are, what you do, or the exact accuracy of these numbers in your life, the total extra time you have is like having a child up until 10th grade (15 years old).

Last Words

It's always been a fantasy to live forever yet we have to deal with our own mortality sooner or later. The idea of accepting a life where such length is wished away or spent thinking about not wanting time to happen, only a small minority of people is enjoying it by living in the moment.

We yearn for hope for the best but there is a thin red line between being a realist and being out of their mind. Life is not smooth sailing as there are challenges to overcome and responsibilities to embrace. There are a lot of things we don't like to do whether, at work or play, time keeps on ticking even after you die. All your waking moment in time, you're essentially signing away most of your life.

Even the best data scientists, mathematicians, and theoretical physicists will never be able to give you an exact number of your own mortality. Things happen. Life is still frighteningly short.

At the end of the day, let's not give away all the time we left by making these key decisions:
  • Careful and conscious of what we exchange for our precious time.
  • Avoid external pressures even from family, friends, and society when it comes to making career, personal, and lifestyle choices.
  • Resist distraction and persuasion from short-term glitz and glamor that have no long-term benefits.

Even good things have to end, anticipating it can be futile as it usually happens in a blink of an eye. Once it's over, you will be back from where you started. It's just like that agonizing time ticking away when the weekend is over and then you wake up, it's Monday again!

If you're like climbing a hill and you're getting closer to reaching the summit, you have already thrown a lot of dirt just to reach it. Then you realized that you have been throwing away that time into the trash for every single day you dislike all along so you can get the precious little time you think it's the best for you. Perhaps, you may have to consider spending some of your time trying to figure out how to make sure you don't waste any more of it.

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