It was a long-weekend-Monday. My wife, my two daughters and I were lying on the bed. My shoes were on and my suitcase was loaded into the car outside.
It was 11:17 AM, and I had to be out the door by 11:30 AM. I had 13 minutes left with my family and then I'd be gone for 10 days.
This isn't necessarily a tragic story, except that for 3 years I had been doing this. Every 2 weeks I was leaving them… for 10 days. I had missed birthdays, anniversaries, school concerts and more. I had missed them growing up.
It's hard to describe the feeling of having your youngest daughter ask you on the night before you leave for work, "Are you going home tomorrow Daddy?" She was right. I was just a visitor in my own home.
As Harry Potter played on the TV, I watched the clock.
12 more minutes.
I should have been present in the moment to enjoy those 12 minutes. I tried, but instead I lay there with a knot in my stomach.
I wondered how this life of an absent husband and father came to be, and it hit me.
Had I known how important those 12 minutes would be, I would never have made the choices that led me to this place.
I made a mental note to explore this idea on the drive ahead. For now, I wanted to be present with my family.
Twelve minutes goes by quick when you're hanging onto someone you don't want to let go of. I gave my final hugs and with pain and regret I walked out the door.
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"Remember this feeling", I told myself.
"Don't ever forget it."
I wish I could have just put the brakes on, and maybe I could have. But real life isn't Hollywood. I had financial commitments that if not met, would come with a higher cost down the road.
It wasn't time to change course just yet. But I had finally understood why my decision process had been flawed.
I didn't know it at the moment, but that thought would change everything. I realized that "time" is my most valuable resource, and that all my future decisions would give it the respect it deserves.
I would do whatever it took to create a life and an income that gave "time" the priority it deserved. Time with my family and friends. Time to do the things I loved doing. Time to look after my health, and to build my own future (not someone else's).
Our culture is materialistic. People are working to buy stuff. It's what drives our economy. We make stuff, we sell stuff, and we consume stuff.
I was working endless hours to buy stuff. To pay for stuff that I had already bought.
But time… We can't see time. We can't hold it in our hands. We can't really show it off and it doesn't satisfy our ego like a shiny new toy can.
Therefore, it often gets overlooked. But the truth is, when we run out of it, it's lights out. No amount of stuff can compete with that.
Not only is it our most valuable resource, it's non-renewable. But we act as though we've got all the time in world. There is a reason we say "spending" time. It's because that's exactly what we are doing. Spending it.
With every decision we make, we are deciding how, and on what, to spend our time.
How Much Time Do We Have?
No one is certain how much time they have. Statistically speaking, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global average life expectancy to be 71 years in 2013. Depending on where one lives the average could be as high as 80+, or as low as 50.
But as individuals, averages don't tell much of a story. If we don't look after ourselves, things like heart disease and diabetes can get us much sooner. Car accidents take the lives of thousands every day. And, just because we're alive doesn't mean we're healthy enough to enjoy it.
Our time is much more than life expectancy though.
As I backed out of my driveway, my youngest peered over the deck railing and waved. I could hear her shouting, "I love you Daddy." She was 4 at the time. My oldest daughter, who was 7, had gone through this so many times that she dealt with it by suppressing her feelings. She would get quiet, and concentrate on other things.
Suppressing emotions and dealing with hurt is not something a seven-year old should be worrying about.
On the topic of time, life expectancy is not what we're talking about. If I could live for 500 years… my daughters will only be young once. Soon, as they get older, our relationship will change. They won't want to spend as much time with Dad.
I know there will be much to enjoy during their teen years too, but this era… will soon be gone.
It doesn't take long before they're to big to climb all over you.
How many more times would I have to endure leaving them? More importantly, how many more times would they have to endure seeing me leave?
Our time is disappearing. Minute by minute, day by day. How we spend it is more important that we can imagine.
Money, the other thing we "spend", is what most of us care about. We don't say it, but our actions speak louder than words.
We often labor (even obsess) over our decisions regarding money. We commit most of our time to earning it. There's always tomorrow right?
For myself, and for most people I worked with, who also left their families… money had become our priority.
I wonder what the world would lool like if we valued time over money?
What do you think? Would your life be different if time was your number one priority? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
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