It was a long-weekend-Monday. My wife, my two daughters, and I were lying on the bed. My shoes were on, and my bags were loaded in the car.
It was 11:17 AM, and I had to be out the door by 11:30. I had 13 minutes left with my family, and then I’d be gone for ten days.
This shouldn’t be a tragic story, except that this had been going on for 3 years—every two weeks… the knot in my stomach. I’d be gone for ten and home for four.
Our lives were measured in goodbyes…
I had missed birthdays, anniversaries, school concerts, and more. I had missed my daughters growing up.
The night before, my youngest asked me, “Are you going home tomorrow, Daddy?”
“I’m home right now,” I told her, but she was right.
I was just a visitor in my own home.
As we lay on the bed, Harry Potter played on the TV. I watched the clock.
Only 12 More Minutes…
I should have been present in the moment. I should have enjoyed those 12 minutes, but instead, I just laid there feeling sick.
“What am I doing?” I thought.
I wondered how this life of an absent husband and father came to be. How did we get here?
And then it hit me.
I would have made different choices if I knew how important those 12 minutes would be.
And it wasn’t just those 12 minutes. It was a minute here, a minute there. An hour, a day… a week.
It’s just time, right? How important can it be? As it turns out, it’s pretty damn important.
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 go by fast 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.
“Remember this feeling,” I told myself…. “Don’t ever forget it!”
And Then I Drove Away…
I wish I could have just hit the brakes, and maybe I could have. But real life isn’t Hollywood. I had financial commitments that would come with a higher cost down the road if I neglected them.
It wasn’t time to change course just yet. But I had finally understood why my decision process was flawed. From that moment on, everything would change.
I finally understood that “time” is our most valuable resource, and for every future decision, I would give it the respect it deserves.
I would do whatever it took to make time a priority. 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. It’s all about stuff. Our economy depends on it. We make stuff, we sell stuff, and we consume stuff.
Endless hours are worked because we love “stuff”.
But what about time?
Do we not love time?
The thing is… we can’t see it. We can’t hold it in our hands. We can’t show it off, and it doesn’t feed our ego.
So, it gets overlooked. Wasted.
A minute here, a minute there… hours add up to days, days to weeks… and before we know it, we’re looking back on years wondering where they went.
But the truth is, time is all we really have. When we run out of time, it’s lights out.
And it’s not only our most valuable resource, it’s also non-renewable. There’s a reason we use the term “spending” time because that’s exactly what we’re doing. Spending it.
With every decision we make, we decide 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 (as of 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.
Time is far more than life expectancy though…
How Many Christmas’ Do You Have Left?
How many people only see a loved one once every year at Christmas? How many Christmas’ do you have left?
How many do they have?
We don’t live close to our family, and my wife only sees her Dad and Stepmom for a few days every couple of years.
So, let’s say she has 30 more years with them. Of course, we hope it's longer… but 30 years isn't a short time either.
Now, as it has been since we moved away, we visit every 2 – 3 years. So let's say we spend 3 days over the holidays with her Dad and Stepmom every second year. In 30 years, that's really only 45 days.
Thirty days condensed into 45 days. That's a pretty tough pill to swallow.
Imagine two of the people you love most in this world, and you only have 45 days left to be in their company.
If we lived closer (which we plan to, within the next few years), she might have hundreds or more.
But for now, we've chosen money over time, so we don’t live near them anymore.
Of course, it didn't feel like we were choosing money over time. And it's definitely not as simple as that. There are many things to consider, including time with our friends here.
But at the time, it felt like we were choosing a better life for ourselves and for our kids.
But maybe we were wrong. Maybe…
These decisions are never black and white. Or are they?
Anyway, 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 four at the time.
My oldest daughter, who was seven, had dealt with our goodbyes for as long as she could remember. An experience that had sadly taught her to shut down her emotions. Or at least bottle them up.
To be honest, I'm not quite sure which one it is. But the result is that she gets quiet and concentrates on other things.
In that moment, thouhg, it hit me like a ton of bricks because here’s the thing…
Even if I could live for 500 years… they will only be young once.
Before long, our relationships will change, and even though I look forward to their teen years too… all the time in the world does not change the fact that I was missing the years when they're young. When they're still growing up.
So it’s not just about how total much time we have…
… it’s about the time we have for those moments that don't last a lifetime.
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?
I should have made better choices…
Our time is disappearing. Minute by minute, day by day. How we spend it is more important than we can imagine.
What Would The World Look Like?
We don’t say it, but actions speak louder than words. Most of us value money far more than we value time.
It's true. We'll pretend it's not, but again, our actions speak louder than words.
We obsess over our decisions regarding money. We commit most of our time to earning it. We spend most of our time thinking about it.
For myself, and for most people I've worked with, who also left their families… money had become our priority. We said we were doing it for our family, and that's true.
But that's because we think our families would rather have money than more time with us.
What would the world look 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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