May 26, 2022

How Many Times Will I See You Again?

Using existential arithmetic to figure out who and what's important.

That question: How many times will I see you again?

Two months ago, on the weekend of St. Patrick’s day, during the first round of March Madness, I drove to Las Vegas in order to see three of my cousins.

I had worked a full day on Friday, got off, then hopped in my truck and drove 3-1/2 hours from Los Angeles to Death Valley where I spent the night in my homemade truck camper. I was on the road again by 7am the next morning, in Vegas at 10am. I met my cousins at Bally’s. We spent the day bouncing around the strip, and by 7pm I was back behind the wheel, home in Los Angeles just after 11pm. That’s nine hours spent visiting, almost eleven hours spent driving.

It had been 3 years since I last saw these cousins of mine. Before that, another 3 years. I’m 29 years old. And the average lifespan for the American male adult is approximately 76.61 years1—but we’ll call it 77 for the sake of convenience.

77 (avg. life) - 29 (my age) = 48 years.

48 ÷ 3 years (current avg. time between visits) = 16.

16 visits. That’s what we call existential arithmetic. Meaning that to maintain the status quo, to change nothing, I can expect to see my cousins sixteen more times while I am still living—and even that’s some generous number crunching considering two of these cousins are 15 years older than me.

And I’m 29.

When I told my parents what I planned to do, to see my cousins, they said it’d be a lot of road time for such a short visit. No drinking and driving, they reminded me. Vegas without Vegas.

Was it even worth it?

I’d already asked myself the same question. And so I shared the existential arithmetic.

We’re talking about family, friends and loved ones.

Two months later—today—my dad told me the math has not left him since. And he’s 60—with a brother who’s 18 years older than him, and sister who’s 15 years older. In fact, it’s been the same three years since he’s seen these siblings—since I saw them, too—since all our family was together for Thanksgiving in 2019.

This is what we’re talking about.

To break time down into such a way, the existential weight becomes easier (and harder) to hold. You see on the one hand there’s not much time left; yet, really, the time is still plenty. We’re talking about context. Hell, I have a whole life ahead of me and yet that 16 looms like a dark cloud.

There’s others I’ve seen less.

We’re talking about a question that applies to everyone.

How many times will you see grandparents again? Your parents, children, friends and loved ones?

These are your important relationships, are they not?

And what about your not-so important relationships? How many times will you see those people again? Is it more?

And is that a way to live?

You can’t run from the math. Pick up the phone. Get in the car.

We’ve been living all wrong.

But there is still time.

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1 The United States is ranked 46th in the world when it comes to average life expectancy. I found this to be interesting, but not entirely surprising. This article attempts to explain why.

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