The concept of “life expectancy” would appear logical at the outset. “Hey, let’s let’s just use math to try and estimate the average lifespan of a human being.” Or a dog. Or turtle. Whatever it is. I think there’s subconscious comfort for people, perhaps, in knowing such things. And maybe it’s even good. Perhaps some people see that life expectancy number at age 50 and it just cold-cocks them. Wham! They realize they’re not where they want to be in life and then the consciousness does kick in and they make a bunch of huge positive changes for the good of themselves and others and everything is ducky and all is well. And I mean that. I’m not being sarcastic.
But the truth is there is no north star for us. I absolutely cannot live my life in such ways, looking out to some arbitrary number that some medical company or research publication published. All this life expectancy stuff might be factually accurate, but this is one of those rare times when I can’t let data drive the story (my co-workers, if they see this, are going to laugh at that statement).
I came across an article on TheHill.com last week about life expectancy. Here’s one of the key takeaways:
CDC data shows that the difference between life expectancy among men and women has also widened. Now, men in the United States have an average life expectancy of 73.5 while women can expect to live until age 79.3.TheHill.com, By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech | Jan. 05, 2023
This is a decline in life expectancy, by the way, from previous data. And I am sure you know why, but in case you don’t, there’s that little COVID-19 thing that happened. So, should I plan my life now towards having 22 years left? No. I should not. And I do not. It’s not that I am confident I have more time than that left, it’s that I don’t know how much time I have left. That is how I approach it. Now, I take pretty good care of myself. I exercise a lot, I eat relatively well, and I am fairly risk averse. This gives me some confidence (my god, knock on wood) that I have a good shot at exceeding that. But I could also get hit by the proverbial bus tomorrow. Nothing is ever guaranteed.
But hark! The article is really about life expectancy by state. So in this there is good news for me:
4. California (tie)-79
5. Massachusetts (tie)-79
6. New Hampshire (tie)-79
7. Oregon (tie)-78.8
8. Vermont (tie)-78.8TheHill.com, By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech | Jan. 05, 2023
I go from 73 to 79! Thank goodness I have another six years due to the state I live in. BAH. Here’s the thing – you’re healthy or you’re not. You’re lucky or you’re not. Your genetics are good or they are not. Average life expectancy is just a collection of 1’s and 0’s, a calculator-driven algorithim that means nothing. It’s what you do with every day, every moment. Everytime I play a hockey game, I am grateful for having participated, experienced, and finished another game. I’m grateful I have a job that pays the bills. I’m grateful.
I know it’s kind of passe to use this quote, but Andy Dufrene was right in Shawshank Redemption – get busy living, or get busy dying.