Amma Adjubi-Archibald, a graphic designer for Beyond Beyond, discusses the fragility and potential of life.
You always remember where you were when something life defining occurs. I remember where my very first kiss happened; we were playing on the bike stands in front of a building and he tasted like salt and vinegar. I remember feeling the hard concrete of the playground through my plimsolls and doing the Ali shuffle during my first real fist fight (hey, don’t judge me - I was eight and the violent side of me has long since subsided, unless you include my psychotic breaks during rush hour).
I also remember my exact location the first time I genuinely contemplated my mortality and its meaning. It was one of those long and languorous summer afternoons and I was swinging my legs and drinking a mug of darkly sweet tea in my in-laws' living room. It was at that moment I learned a fact that by alternate strokes fascinated and terrified me. The average human life is 650,000 hours.
Seeing life expectancy in hours and not years is what did it; hours have a sense of urgency that years lack. And it is not as if loved ones hadn’t passed away. I had donned the black clothes of mourning more than a few times and said goodbyes that, though inevitable, were no less painful. But - after shaking your head, vowing to live life differently, not to take it all for granted - more often than not we return to the way we were before. Burying our heads in the mundane, the daily distractions overtaking us - until we lose someone else.
"Seeing life expectancy in hours and not years is what did it; hours have a sense of urgency that years lack."
650,000 seemed ridiculously short. I pulled out my calculator and realised what a sizeable chunk of these hours had passed by for me (and I am not 'fessing up to how much). 650,000 hours I calculated: that’s the cooking time for 325,000 roast dinners - heck, I could watch the SATC box set 14,722 times! The horror grew with each random statistic calculated, and I fought the urge to shorten my remaining hours with by mixing whisky with a bit of hara-kiri. I faced up to reality and chose to see this as a blessing not a curse. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end – that is just the way life works, it has to reach a conclusion.
Lying in bed later that night, listening to the oddly soothing mix of my husband’s gentle snores and the hum of the traffic, I contemplated my personal game plan – what it was I really wanted to do. Was it to climb K2, become a yoga guru, learn a new language, get a full body tattoo, heck, why not start a charity? I thought big and bold in those twilight hours and dreamed of a gargantuan universe of possibilities that I had barely explored. My life suddenly seemed to have the depth of a kiddie pool. I chided myself when I realised all the things that I thought eluded me were all achievable. The visualisation and dream portion of this thought odyssey was pretty good – I revelled in the idea of what my life could potentially become.
Apart from the big dreams, I also focused on some of the small dreams, like not worrying about having the perfect figure, whiter than white teeth or that corn on my little toe that I couldn’t get rid of. There would be no more sulking that my life didn’t have the pristine gleam of a glossy magazine. Apart from living fully, I stopped most of the naval gazing and sighing about the fact that my life wasn’t all quite as perfect as I wanted and embraced my here and now.
So, I don’t have a calendar. Instead, the number 650,000 sits on a piece of card on my desk, and that's the only calendar I need. Time is too short to ignore your dreams – whatever your dream is, do it now!
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Picture credit: Rex Features