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Happiness Is A Skill - Issue #30 - A 90-Year Life in Charts

The turn of the year has coincided with a handful of major changes in my life, specifically regarding
Happiness Is A Skill - Issue #30 - A 90-Year Life in Charts
By Brooke Siem  • Issue #30 • View online
The turn of the year has coincided with a handful of major changes in my life, specifically regarding where I live and where I want to focus my time. And as someone who has calculated the day of my own death (17,838 days to go) and graphed my depression—and recovery—over the years, I decided to start off 2021 by quantifying the experiences I’ve got left.
For calculation’s sake, I’ve generously rounded up my predicted life expectancy to an even 90 years. My grandfather is still kickin’ at 94, so it’s somewhere in my genes.
I can’t take credit for this idea. The following is directly inspired by Tim Urban’s 2015 blog post, The Tail End.

A 90-Year Life in Years
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
Which means, at 34 years old, I’ve gotten this far:
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
Breaking that down into months, with each row equaling 36 months, or 3 years.
A 90-Year Life in Months
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
And weeks:
A 90-Year Life in Weeks
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
Chart created by Bryan Braun.
And days:
A 90-Year Life in Days
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Each dot is a typical day of the week, with one small square representing 100 days and one large square representing 10,000 days.
But seeing how much time you (might) have left forces one to think about experiences. If I live until 90, that means I get to watch the leaves turn roughly 56 more times.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
And there are under 60 Christmases left.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
I read about 8 books a year, which gives me 440 books in a lifetime. What’s in all the rest of them? I’ll have to guess.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
In my 34 years, I’ve been lucky to take 13 international trips, as defined by 1 trip = a flight in and out of the US. This is roughly .38 trips/year or 34 total trips in a lifetime.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
I eat pizza about once a month, which means I’ve got ~700 pizzas to devour.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
Chart created by Brooke Siem.
But working through the amount of pizza I have left to eat opens the door to what really matters: how many more times I get to see the people who matter to me. I lost my father when I was 15, and the experience has made me acutely aware of the finite and unpredictable amount of time we get with the people we love most.
It was Tim Urban who first alerted me to the fact that you spend 90% of the total time you get to spend with your parents between 0-18 years old, with the bulk of that time happening before you turn 12. Think about it. Between the ages of say, 0 - 4, nearly 100% of your time is spent with a parent. It dwindles after that, as school and after school activities enter the mix. By the time college and first apartments enter the mix, many of us only see our families a few times a year for a few days out of the year.
Urban says about his time with his parents, “Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.”
Urban charted this experience, and because I do not have the ability to make my own (I maxed out at pizza), I’m inserting his chart here. All credit goes to Tim Urban and waitbutwhy.com.
Chart created by Tim Urban, waitbutwhy.com
Chart created by Tim Urban, waitbutwhy.com
What this chart doesn’t show is that the quality of experience spent with your parents declines in the later years. We all know the havoc wreaked by dementia and frail bodies. The two little stick figures in the bottom row can’t ever get back what the opportunities in the middle.
I’m lucky to have a family that makes me feel good. And because of that, I’ve chosen to be closer. 2020 clarified the impermanence of all things, and I am no longer willing to put obstacles in the way of the one thing that always aids me in cultivating happiness. And if I can access the constant source of joy and support, then everything else is easier. Happiness itself, is easier.
Your one thing may be different. I know that not everyone has a healthy connection. But the thought process remains the same. What is meaningful to you? What makes you feel good? Forgetting money, fame, and power, what brings you peace and serenity? And how can you get that in your life, every damn day, without having to fight for it?
Figure it out. Time is ticking.

The Tail End — Wait But Why
2020: The year in charts, from Covid-19 to the election - Vox
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Brooke Siem

After 15 years of depression and antidepressants, my mission is to help people find hope in the name of healing. HAPPINESS IS A SKILL a newsletter for people who are ready to dig deep and do the self-work required to create a beautiful life. You can learn more about my story at www.brookesiem.com.

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