Now that Christmas is over, I can no longer hide from my fears. As I posted before Christmas, I might have skin cancer. Waiting for the results is tough, but I can’t change that process. What I can do is take stock of who I am so that I don’t let my fears control me.

As my wife and I went to bed on Christmas day, I broke down a bit and spilled some of these fears to her. I didn’t want to taint the holiday for my family, but my children had gone to bed, so I believed it was okay. The most difficult realization I had was that I wasn’t going to have some massive epiphany moment. After I thought about how I live my life, I realized I already approach each day as if it might be my last. I prioritize my family over everything, then my writing, then my other hobbies, and then lastly my job. Now more than ever, my job is important because of the health care, but it will always be less than my family and life goals.

Because I live each day as if it is my last already, I know that if I am knocked off in a year, I will be content knowing I spent that year loving my kids and putting my family first. Strangely enough, that doesn’t sit well with how we portray deadlines in pop culture, and I expected more. This could mean I mostly live a contented life already, or all my ambitions for how I want to live are just not as important as my time with family.

A priority shift might be in order just as long as it is not a shift away from my family. And so to better align myself with my values, I decided to write down what those values are in the form of Days Left To Live.

1 Day Left To Live

If I only had one day left to live, I would pretty much spend it the way that I spend my weekends now. I would play with my kids, love my wife in both emotional and physical ways, and try to stress out as little as possible. I would try to do something outdoors with my family like sledding in the winter or hiking in the summer. And most importantly, I would savor every sight, sound, and taste. There would likely be a portion of that day devoted to trying to calm my mind about all the missed opportunities that would happen. I would make sure to cuddle up next to my wife and kids in the evening and feel their warmth one last time. With only one day left, I would put my family first.

1 Week Left To Live

I would make sure that on my final day, I had everything set up and ready to go. I don’t want my family spending any time trying to organize and prepare for something. But once I had done that, I would make sure that I took that week off from work. If my family could take the time off I would spend each day with them taking the time to enjoy my favorite experiences like going fishing and browsing the bookstore for new books. I would make sure to grab lunch one last time with some of my friends, and I would spend some time just sitting and absorbing some of my favorite places like the pond on my university’s campus or the park. Effectively, I would spend the week saying, “Goodbye!” to all the places and things that filled my life with joy.

1 Month Left To Live

I would spread out everything from my one week over that month, but I would add in reading some of the highest-priority books I haven’t read yet. That’s probably the only real difference between the shorter time frames and the longer ones. I also would ask to take the entire month off from work, and if they wouldn’t allow it I would just quit. Work doesn’t enter the equation unless I have more time left.

1 Year Left To Live

This is where it gets progressively harder to think about how I would spend my time. I can’t not work, my family still needs me to earn an income, but I also wouldn’t want to work super hard. I might ask to be placed on some low-value projects and take large amounts of time off to travel with my family. I would make sure to take my wife to Europe (specifically Italy) and New Zealand. I would take my family to Disneyland and Disneyworld so I could watch the sheer joy on my children’s faces. And I would try to get to Norway again.

But with more time to fill, I would also likely keep writing. This is the smallest time frame I feel that I could use to achieve something significant. If I were already a published author, then I might try to work on writing with less time left, but I am not right now, so this is where it lands. I would go big. I would try to write the best novel I possibly could that covered the widest array of human experiences possible. I would do my best to make it a show-stopper.

5 Years Left To Live

I couldn’t in good conscience let my family live with the risk of me losing my employment. I would continue basically as things are now. I would write when I could, I would spend all the time I could with my kids, and I would try to travel as much as I could while still holding down a job. At this length of time, I am not sure I would push a pivot away from my job. I don’t like my work, but I also wouldn’t want to waste any time trying to find a new job. Leaving my job would only be possible if I could make a career out of writing, even if it were a short one.

At this length of time, I likely wouldn’t focus on how much time I had left. There are days right now where I think my length comes in about here. As I said before, I already try to live my life with my priorities straight.

30 Years Left To Live

I would try to pivot as hard away from my job as I can while still preventing risk to my family’s health and wellbeing. I would try harder to craft the writing career I wish to have. I would spend more time trying to align work with my values. This is kind of the spot that I make my plans in right now. I normally think it is fair to assume I will make it to my sixties, and so I plan with that age in mind. I don’t think I will make it to my seventies.

I wouldn’t leave my job unless I had something else bringing in money. I would save for retirement as best I can. I might not have a long retirement, but I would try to have something fun waiting for me. I probably would live my life with a fair bit of regret. My plans aren’t always my dreams. When they are different it is because I don’t want to jeopardize the things my family and I have.

100+ Years Left To Live

Why bother doing anything but work and spend my free time with my kids? Eventually, they will be out of the house and I will have saved enough money to never work again. Let’s say that takes 40 years to earn enough to support the next 60, I would stop writing until I finished work. I would spend my free time reading when I wasn’t spending it with my family. I would amass a library twice the size of the one my wife and I have now. And during those last 60 years, I would just read, write, and travel. The 40 years I would spend working would be worth it if I could spend 60 just doing the things I love. Or longer if I had more time. Anything over 100 years would just be more of the same.


What I realize by doing this, is that most people plan on both ends of the spectrum. They either put work above all else, in which case I think they are 100+ year planning, or they put no emphasis on saving and spend all of that money on their happiness right now, thus 1 year or less planning. It is a dream to think I will have 100+ years left to live. It would be nice, but it won’t happen. So I live my life according to the following values, which have more or less been shown in each level of time above:

  • I value my wife and kids above everything. I will make their time and happiness my main concern.
  • I value a career in writing, but I won’t sacrifice time with my family to achieve that career.
  • I value reading and traveling more than work.
  • I value work only for what it can allow me to do with my family.
  • At no point in my exploration did fame or video games matter.

That last point is there because I do play video games at times, and I have dreamt about becoming famous. But a career as a writer doesn’t presuppose fame. I could be a nobody as long as I got to write and earn enough money to support my family.

What do I make of this all? This shall act as my road map. As I have to navigate both scenarios of either having skin cancer or not, I shall live my life according to these values. This is what matters most to me. This is what I care about. This is something I think more people ought to do to find their values. I know who I am, and I will live my life the best way for me.

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