Day 58 Reporting – 2,024 Words/Day Process Log –Life Value

Strangely enough, it was a TikTok that ended my TikTok addiction. If you’ve never seen the mental health TikTok lady starting with “Hey” and ending with a version of – maybe you need to go outside and touch some grass, hear some birdsong, – then you cannot comprehend how many hours I spent swiping up for 3 – 5 minutes at a time, giving life energy to a machine.

That stopped with one specific TikTok. The Black woman on the screen looked like a woman I’d see at my local Publix, standing in the deli line for an order of Mardi gras wings – a brown-skinned older woman who probably used the foundation shade that always sells out in drug stores because a good 50% of African American women are that shade – a gorgeous pecan brown with golden undertones. (Aside: I can say that because I have red undertones which means it took me until I was in my 40s to figure out why I couldn’t use the current popular brown girl foundation shade.) She had straightened, black hair to her shoulders, parted in the middle and though she was older, she was still younger than me.

I had something she didn’t – laugh lines. Which I can’t be mad about because I can’t be mad that I laughed that much in life to earn them. Her face was free of lines, jowls, or any type of sagging. Her eyes, though, were old.

She looked right in the phase of life where she’s still pushing forward and seeking to reach that next level in a career. She looked like she graduated from an HBCU, probably active in a sorority, maybe volunteered for a voter registration drive at the local community center in a get out to vote event. She was polished, not an influencer. Yet, she got my attention whereas the “Hey” lady from TikTok didn’t.

She did it with math.

She looked straight into the camera and told me the truth – You’re not middle-aged. She did it with math. The average life expectancy in the United States is 79 years old. That means if you’re over 40, you’re not middle – aged, you’re on the downward slope of life. You only have a limited number of summers, of Christmases, of springs and you’re here scrolling on an app instead of out there living your life.

And she was right. I didn’t delete the app at that moment. I tend to have to have a variety of events before I take action although as I get older, I get wiser, and it doesn’t take me as long. But it got me thinking. Especially, since I started looking at things that were no longer worth my time – like real estate investing. The key to real estate investing is time in the game. I could reach my goals without investing in real estate and I didn’t want to go through the learning process to get better at it.

The opportunity for that, had shut. I was told that when I was younger, that opportunities constrict with age and I listened to some extent. I’ve told the story about how I moved to Philadelphia in my early 40s, plenty of times. I knew if I hadn’t moved at that time, I would not have moved.

Then there were the trips to Maui, Denver, the Oregon coast, Seattle. In most instances they were tied to work trips or writing workshops. Still, thanks to my handy-dandy writing account and learning the points game to pay for airline tickets, I did the best that I could. No regrets on that end.

But I am actively looking at how to enjoy the time I have left. What’s the best use of my time seeing as different phases of your life, mean you have a different energy level and different priorities. The book I’m currently listening to is “Die At Zero”. The premise is that if you’re someone who’s more of a grasshopper than an ant, you need to move to balance that or else you’re giving up your life’s energy.

He used the example of his friend going on a backpacking trip throughout Europe in his 20s and how his friend would never give up those memories for any amount of money. He talked about investing in experiences as much as we invest in our 401ks. Both will pay dividends.

The concept of not wanting to leave the house the older you get, is something I’m seeing with my parents and the thing that my dad warns me about – that I need to take the trips now because when I get older, I won’t want to and it will probably be harder to get around.

When I lived in different places, I used to look for elevators and asked myself that if my parents had to come stay with me, what would be their quality of life. It’s part of the reason I settled in downtown Silver Spring, MD. It was manageable with excellent public transportation and if my mom needed to come live with me, I knew it would be easy for her to make friends and find things to do.

Now, I’m looking at those kind of things for myself.

But dying with zero is more than where do I want to go and what activities I want to cross off my bucket list, it’s also about what I want to leave behind, what work. I know one thing – I want my work to be mine. I don’t have the time to listen to other voices or write in worlds that are not mine.  

While that might have been an awesome decision in my 20s, where I had the time to use it as a springboard and establish a solid foundation for a writing career, in my 50s, my time is precious. For me, the best use of that time is to focus on telling the stories I want to tell, to the best of my current ability.

Looking at death is scary, but it also creates urgency. This ride of life has an end date. Pretending it doesn’t and not planning for that, doesn’t make that any less true.

Keep moving forward. Keep getting better.

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As of Day 58, – 2/27/24

# of Words I Wrote/# of Words Written To Be on Track/Year Goal

111,833 / 117,392/ 740,784

About Irette Y Patterson

Irette Y Patterson is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. She has been published in FIYAH, Strange Horizons, Translunar Travelers Lounge and on the website of The Saturday Evening Post. When not writing, you can find her digging around in her garden or catching the latest musical in the theater.
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