Your Time Left on Earth: One Day vs. 30 Years vs. One Hundred Years
This week's Freakonomics podcast had listeners weigh costs and benefits of a different kind of economics question: if you had a 50/50 chance of getting Huntington's disease in the future and you were given a chance to take a test to confirm whether or not you will get the disease, would you take the test? Currently there are no treatments or preventative measures for the disease (excluding choosing not to have children thereby choosing to prevent passing the gene to the next generation).
If I knew that I carried the gene, would I change the way I live my life? Sure, I wish that my family could all be together. But I want to see the world. I also want my independence. I love, miss, and appreciate my family because of our limited time together. I wouldn't be anywhere else than I am right now if I knew that I carried the gene.
If I knew that I carried the gene, would I choose to cut my significant other out of my life so as not to burden him? I suppose that wouldn't be my choice entirely, but I know that with or without the gene, I want to spend the rest of my life with him.
Would I choose a different career path or job? There are many people out there sitting with a desk job that they hate and waiting for some kind of sign, for the "right timing", or otherwise some kind of permission from someone other than their self to go after the job that they really want. Not me. My friends know that I complain about my job every now and then these days, but I complain about it on days that I don't get to be with the kids. I complain about my job on days that I'm not teaching. I love teaching, my coworkers, and my students. Teaching helps me feel connected with people; it makes me feel purposeful; it gives me a reason to laugh, smile, and help someone every day. I can't imagine trading in my teaching job for any other job in the world. Regardless of how many days I have left on Earth, it's what I want to be doing right now.
Would I decide to quit all of my responsibilities and live a life of music, travel, running, and reading? After spending more days unemployed and without responsibility than I liked, I learned that I need to be a part of something bigger. I love reading, but at the end of the day, all I have is a list of books read. I love traveling, but a girl's gotta come home some time. Personal improvement feels wonderful is and important, but it's meaningless unless you can share it with others or use it for a cause greater than your self.
If there's one thing I can be at peace with right now, it's knowing that I do all that I can to lead the most fulfilling life that I possibly can. Not that I'm some self-actualized 24-year-old with nothing but smooth sailing ahead; I have my share of insecurities, disappointments, and am still working hard to make my mark on the world. But I'm living the best I can, whether I have one hundred years ahead of me or one day. I know that I love with my whole my heart, however big or small my heart may be. I seek to be a better person than I was yesterday. I dream early and I dream often. I make plans to make those dreams realities and work at 'em with all my might. I'm happy knowing that battles aren't easily won, that I've fought many, and that I win more than I lose. Not knowing how many more days, years, or decades I have ahead of me won't change how I fight my battles. After all, I could be hit by a car and die regardless of whether I carried the gene for Huntington's or if I didn't carry the gene--in which case, knowing that I had the gene wouldn't have mattered anyway.
Would you live your life any differently if you knew that you carried the gene for Huntington's disease?