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What SkyMall Taught Me About My Mortality

I am learning to number my days.

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I'll never forget a brief exchange I had during my college semester abroad. I was sitting with a classmate when I (somewhat rudely) asked him how old he was.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

He said, "Maybe 30."

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

I felt a bit sheepish. In my 22 years, it had never occurred to me that some people don't really keep track of their age.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

I have wondered since then — would we be more relaxed if we stopped counting? Is it all this counting that is at the heart of the American obsession with age?

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

The answer came years later while I was thumbing through the famously wacky gift catalog SkyMall. On page 60, I found the “Tikker” — a watch that counts down to your death based on your own “health algorithm.”

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

As presumptuous as that seems, I think it merely reflects the flawed sense of certainty that many people like me have when they think about their age and the "life expectancy figures."

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

In other words, I think our obsession with age isn't about counting up but counting down. Knowing your exact age provides a more accurate figure of how many years you have left. That's why we use terms like "midlife crisis."

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

But life does not play out like a YouTube video with a progress bar. It is, you know, more like a confusing GIF that doesn’t loop. And I think that many people (like my classmate) understand this uncertainty far better than I do.

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

So 32 years in, I am remembering to be thankful for the long life I’ve had already. And I’m trying to remain aware of just how fortunate I am each day I am healthy and ultimately ask, "What good can I do with these days?"

Nathan W. Pyle / Via buzzfeed.com

Though I hope to live many more years, I can't set my watch to it.

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