“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.” — Steve Jobs
I wake up to the sound of banging on the front door. My neighbor’s yelling at me to get dressed and get out ASAP. There’s a fire.
This is back in 2010 and I’m living with my cousin in a high-rise apartment. I gather my things. Phone, wallet, and keys.
We start making our way down the stairs, banging on the doors and yelling that there’s a fire.
The further down we get, the thicker the smoke gets. It stings my eyes. The air keeps getting hotter and hotter. I wonder if I should turn back and run up the stairs.
Then it hits me. I might not make it out alive.
My adrenaline is pumping, and I keep going. Fortunately the fire is in the basement and hasn’t spread into the entrance. We get out gasping for air, relieved to be alive.
As the night goes on the fire department gets it under control. We get to go back into our apartments and somehow manage to sleep.
When the thought “I might not make it out alive” hit me, it didn’t really get a chance to sink in. Only the following day did I have chance to reflect on it.
And it scared me. A hundred “what ifs” played out in my mind.
Then a euphoric feeling of relief and gratitude of being alive washed over me.
All the other worries of life went away.
It wasn’t an instantaneous shift, some of the worries came back soon after. But gradually all those other things became less and less important. All the deadlines, all the problems that needed attention, they didn’t matter as much.
When you face death, everything else becomes secondary.
The reason I tell you this is because I’ve had some not-so-fun conversations lately.
It has to do with my livelihood. As it stands now, as of January 1st 2017 I won’t be having a steady income. Merry Christmas, right?
The split was amicable, so no worries there. They need to make cuts in their budget, so we’re ending it.
But this sets me back a couple of months, and I honestly don’t know if I’m going to manage to get things together. It wasn’t exactly the outcome I’d been hoping for.
After this I’ve had several conversations with people worried about how things will go. What I’ll do and so on.
Here’s the thing. I don’t know.
I don’t know if I’m going to get a new job or client in time. I don’t know if I’m going to have to sell my apartment or take some other measures to secure my finances. Writing it now I realize how lucky I am to even have those options.
Here’s what I do know. This is NOT a matter of life or death.
It’s simply a matter of whether I’m going to be able to maintain a certain level of comfort or not.
That wasn’t the case running down those stairs back in 2010.
I’m so tremendously grateful that I have the opportunity to try again, make different choices, to make better choices.
What I’ve learned from this, despite it being painfully obvious in hindsight, is that I need to build a bigger financial buffer for myself to make sure I don’t have to compromise things I feel are essential.
So, if you’re experiencing one of these periods yourself the things I want you to take away from this are these:
- Life is long. You have time, so ask yourself whether achieving your goals in 5 years is more important than to do it, no matter how long it takes.
- You get to try again. You can build things up only to have them come apart, but you get to try again.
- It’s not life and death. It might feel like it at the moment. But I’ve been there, and it isn’t.