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March 15, 2016

The Beauty of an Expiration Date.

Author's own (Kimberly Hetherington)

When I first moved to Sydney, I made friends with a group of Europeans.

For the four days that our friendship lasted, we were inseparable. We’d all meet up in the hostel lobby at a set time and then head off on an adventure.

On our last day together, we were all walking back to the hostel after a few hours of sightseeing. I was walking beside the German girl who had suddenly gone silent. I glanced over at her and noticed she was staring up at the sky, watching a plane go by. She told me that she was going back home to Germany tomorrow, that she had just finished her one year abroad as an Au Pair.

She pointed up at the plane and said, “When I first arrived here I would watch planes fly above and think to myself, ‘one day that’s going to be me’ and now, it is.”

That one phrase stuck with me. Now, whenever I see a plane fly overhead I am reminded that my time in Australia is temporary, that one day I will be on one of those planes, leaving it all behind.

This gentle reminder causes me to savour the moment. It encourages me to go out of my way to do something exciting, or at very least, anchor myself to the current moment, whatever that moment might be. Whether it be enjoying the presence of great friends, the feeling of the sun on my back, or just noticing the palm trees blowing softly in the wind. My mind floats nowhere else and instead hyper-focuses on the moment.

It makes feel so grateful that this was something I finally got to experience.

Anyone who lives with the knowledge that this city/apartment/person/pet will not be here in a year is going to do what they can to value, appreciate and enjoy the hell out of that certain thing until its gone. I remember my Dad telling me a story about a friend of his (let’s call him Jim) whose mother was diagnosed with cancer.

He was told by doctors that she’d be dead within six months.

The family, shocked and devastated by the news, did as much as they possibly could together. They hurriedly checked off bucket list items and ran each other ragged trying to live each day like it was his truly her last. In the end, his Mother lived another 10 years. When she finally died my Dad called him and said, “Jim, I’m so sorry, I kno-“ before my Dad could finish, Jim replied “Are you kidding me? We’re celebrating!”

This story may or may not be a joke that I accidentally took seriously—regardless, it holds an important lesson: appreciate and value your loved ones so much so that when it’s their time to go, you will quite literally be celebrating because you didn’t take a single moment with them for granted.

It’s very unlikely that it will be a complete celebration and savouring each and every moment is close to impossible, but you might as well aim for that.

Similarly, an impending expiration date is great for dating and relationships. It’s like a metaphorical shot of vodka before asking the girl/guy out, there is just nothing to lose. Oddly enough, this kind of relaxed, confident and carefree attitude naturally attracts people anyway. Then when you finally meet that special someone, it’s so much easier to jump in without reservation; to enjoy it for what it is, for however long it might last. Less time is wasted on playing games or being “hard to get.” Although these relationships may be speedy, at least you aren’t wasting time dealing with the wrong people by going through all the same motions but just at a snail’s pace.

Short relationships tend to be given less credit simply because they are short-lived. To me, a relationship lasting a month can be just as potent and powerful as decade long ones. The length of time is irrelevant, what matters is how deeply it shook you.

Having the mentality that we need to make the most of what we have now leaves so much more room for joy and gratitude. Evidently, in the grand scheme of things, we too as mortal creatures have an expiration date. But on a day to day basis its difficult to conceptualise an actual ending to all of this, its deceptive in its way of appearing endless in supply. Its rather easy to fall into the trap of taking things for granted, its goes against the grain and requires a conscious effort not to. On the other end of the spectrum, its also completely unsustainable (and possibly dangerous) to actually live each day like its your last. If I truly thought I’d be dead tomorrow I’d be a mess because I’m very curious about what heroin feels like.

This is why a plane overhead can represent the perfect balance between YOLO and “calm down, I have to work tomorrow.”

Now whenever I see a plane gliding by I feel thankful for the reminder that everything always changes; its up to me to fight it or embrace it. Its a sigh of relief knowing there is an ending in sight when things are rough but it brings a pang of sadness when things are going just right. Learning to let things take their natural course requires resiliency and acceptance. Sometimes we have to ease the grip we have on “our five year plans” or ideas on where should be now and accept where we actually are. Sometimes we need to learn how to quieten that voice that feeds us negativity and remind ourselves we are trying our best, we deserve to give ourselves some credit.

So perhaps the lesson is this: take life sections, in a way that the ending is still in sight. Go into new experiences with the mentality that it will not last forever, because surprise surprise, nothing does. Maybe we all need to find our own airplane overhead reminding us to savour and enjoy the here and now.

At the end of the day, right now is really all we have, we might as well make the most of it.

 

 

 

Author: Kimberly Hetherington

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Author’s own

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Kimberly Hetherington

Kimberly Hetherington is a Canadian raised in Egypt, Pakistan, Ghana, Jamaica, and Ukraine who now lives on the shores of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. You can follow her blog at Life After Elizabeth.