The 30,000

[ This is a reprint of an earlier post, to keep new readers happy while I work on some new ideas. ]

Say someone gave you $30,000, in cash, and the deal was, you had to live on it as long as you could. You couldn’t do any other income-producing work in that time, you just had to live on the 30 grand.

You’d have to pay all your bills on it, provide for all your daily needs. You’d have no additional money coming in, and all your entertainment needs, your health needs, your travel and leisure needs, all would have to come out of that one chunk of money.

How long could you live on it?

To a 10-year-old, $30,000 might seem like all the money in the world, an amount that would last forever. You could go to all the movies in the world, it would seem, and have cotton candy and Ferris wheel rides for the rest of your life.

But any adult – even a college student – could tell you it’s not a lot. Groceries, gas, rent, car payments, trips to the dentist, clothes – plus tuition, if you were that college student – the occasional night out … it all adds up, or rather subtracts out, and one day not too far off, the $30K would be completely used up.

You might be free with the spending in the early days of the $30,000, but you’d wise up pretty fast and learn to be less spendthrifty as you went along. When you got toward the end of the money, you’d get progressively more miserly, until you were stretching each dollar as far as you could, using it as efficiently as humanly possible.

Having just come off a year without working while I was writing two books, I can tell you my own answer: On $30,000, I could make it just a little over a year.

I’d have to be careful not to go on any spending sprees, of course, or the time would be shortened. Careful not to get injured and incur medical bills. Hope there were no emergencies. And if the $30,000 cash were just sitting around, I’d have to take some care not to have it stolen, or lose it in a fire or whatever, because in any case like those, it could be gone in a day.

Okay, the point is made: $30,000 is not a lot of money. If all you had was thirty G’s to run your entire life, you wouldn’t have much time before it would be all spent.

Speaking of time, that’s really what I’m talking about. Specifically, your lifetime.

Because, strange as it may seem to think of it like this, what any of us is likely to get in life is about 30,000 days.

That’s it. That’s all. 30,000 days is just a little over 82 years. You get about 30,000 days in which to do EVERYTHING you might want to do in life, and then no more time to do anything, ever.

And you can’t even count on those 30,000 days. Sure you may have known plenty of people who’ve lived longer, and if you take care of yourself, you’ll probably get there, but the average lifespan (in the U.S.) is two years less for women, seven years less for men. Which means that though lots of us will get there, most of us WON’T.

If you go on a spending spree – drinking hard, using drugs, taking chances with your driving, accepting a dare from friends to dive off the high bridge or ride your motorcycle while standing on your head – you could easily use it up in less time. And all of us know people who have.

If you suffer an accident, you could be out of days in less time. Your store of days could be burned up in a fire, or lost in a car crash, or stolen from you in a war. You could erode them away by not eating right, and not getting any exercise.

But even if you get the entire 30 grand, it’s not a lot of time.

But it’s all you’re going to get.

30,000. If you’re lucky. And then no more, at all, ever.

If it was $30,000, and you wanted to stretch it out as long as possible, every dollar would be precious. You’d have to make careful decisions about how to spend each and every one. “How am I going to spend this dollar? And then this one? And then how about this one?”

If it’s 30,000 days …

30,000 days to get everything done. Every place you want to visit. Every person you want to meet. Every adventure you want to have. Everything you want to learn. Every project you want to complete. Every goal you have to accomplish. Everything. Everything you ever wanted to do, everything you ever thought about doing, and only 30,000 days – or less – in which to get it done.

… you’d have to make the same sort of careful decisions about how to spend each one.

Oh, well, if you believe in a glorious eternal afterlife, which means you think a mysteriously generous wealthy stranger – whom you’ve never met but who people tell you is out there – is going to walk up one day and hand you an additional $30,000, and then another $30,000 next year, and another $30,000 after that, forever, you don’t have to worry. You can spend and spend and spend, and the money bag will never run dry. Gosh, that would be great, huh? Santa Claus will show up with free bags of money, dropping a full one down the chimney every Christmas eve. Not.

In the long, long summer of childhood, the frenetic, unplanned days of adolescence, the routine days of adulthood with our steady job and family routines, or the extended autumn of retirement, we either fail to notice or forget the limit on days.

But it’s there. 30,000.

Or — considering that you’re not a newborn — less. If you’re 27, it’s already down to 20,000. If you’re 55, it’s already only 10,000.


What were you planning on getting accomplished today?

What about tomorrow? The entire week? This month? This year?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Because though it won’t be your last (we hope), it will be ONE of them.

Tick. Tick. Tick.


Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
Beta Culture: Being Grownups on Planet Earth
Zoning Out on Liberal vs. Conservative Issues
Beta Culture: Seeing The Brackets
  • ‘Tis Himself

    accepting a dare from friends to dive off the high bridge or ride your motorcycle while standing on your head

    Famous last words: “Hey guys, watch this!”

  • No Light

    Great post, very thought-provoking, but slightly depressing.

    My days do not involve seizing anything anymore. I am confined to this bed, and haven’t left it since Feb. 14th.

    I’m trying to use my time in positive ways, watching documentaries, talking to my partner, and trying to at least regain the use of my hands. Luckily, I’m equipped with a smartphone and a working thumb! I can use the phone to access the internet, control the pc, and stay connected to the world.

    I’m glad I’m no longer religious, as I would have constantly been trying to figure out what had gone wrong. I would have seen this as a divine punishment for some transgression. Maybe I would have cried, pleading god for help, maybe I would have thought “Thy will be done” and left it to god to decide my fate.

    So that’s a bonus. At least this way I’m using my brain for productive reasons, and trying to seize my future. My shiny chair will get back out there soon, wheels spinning and tacky lights flashing!

    • Hank Fox

      No Light, thank you soooo much for being here, and for commenting. The “hill” you have to get over to do these things is obviously much steeper and higher than the one most of us contend with. My personal best wishes to you.

      • No Light

        Thank you so much!

        I’m used to limits, but this is almost surreal. But I’m British so my medical needs are taken care of, and a yearly payment of £104 gets me a prescription prepayment card. That gets me as many meds as I need, for no extra .cost.

        When I compare my situation to that of disabled /chronically ill friends in. the US, I could cry with relief. I don’t have to choose between drugs and food.

        Since shaking off religion, and all. the magical thinking, not much seems insurmountable. I’ve got that. hill to climb, but there are plenty of rest-stops on the way up, and the view from the top is going to be bloody amazing!

  • anthonyallen

    I remember when you wrote this the first time, Hank. At the time, I said that my 15k days are going to be a spectacular waste of time because of the fear that has built up in my life over the previous 15k days.

    You’ll be happy to know that while I haven’t got to the point where I can just dive into things all willy-nilly, I am getting help. I have joined a peer-support group for depression and anxiety, and we go on regular outings together; I have made a few friends here, finally; and I’m back doing theatre again, even auditioning for roles that I want. (I haven’t gotten any as yet, but progress is made in that I’ve figured out that not getting a role is OK.)

    I owe you some props for helping me to get to this point and continuing to progress, even though there is still a long road ahead of me. Somehow, the road doesn’t seem quite so dark anymore.

    Thank you, Hank. So very much.

    • Hank Fox

      Wonderful! As someone who has dealt with his own “issues,” I know something of how hard these things can be.

      I congratulate you on the progress, and wish you ever-greater freedom as you go on with life.

    • No Light

      Best of luck on your journey. I know how depression just casts that grimy, grey pall over everything. I’ve got the depression/anxiety too, and I know it sometimes seems impossible to persuade yourself that there’s any point to anything.

      Mine has eased dramatically in the last few years, after working hard to clamp down on that niggling voice that says “You’re not good enough, you’re ugly and everyone will laugh at you”. It took work to persuade myself that my mental health problems were no more my fault than my physical problems are. Once that clicked into place, a lot of the guilt and the shame slipped away.

      I stopped trying to fight away positive experiences, I tried to rationalise things, to ask myself “OK, if you go to [place] and [feared event] does happen, what’s the absolute worst result of that? The only people there are people who love you, and people you’ll never, ever see again. It’s ok to not be perfect!”

      I even made flowcharts!

      Hopefully your new group can share strategies with you, and build your confidence. I’ve accepted that depression and anxiety are always going to be part of my life, but there are strategies to use that Witt minimise how badly it affects me. And if I have a bad day? That’s ok too, it’s not a personal failing.

      *hugs* Here’s to bright days ahead!

  • Crudely Wrott

    I’m reminded of a Moody Blues song. I’m such a Moody Blues kind of guy.
    22,000 Days:

    Then I remember this one which gave me a lot of strength once upon a time.
    My Song:

    No Light, you are illuminating, a source of light yourself. I do hope that you enjoy these links.

    Shine on, friend.

    • No Light

      That is so sweet, thank you!

      Today is actually a good day, my big achievement? Learning to eat pizza by balancing it on the back of my hand :-D.

      I’ll be running marathons in no time!

  • Dave

    Hi Hank,

    Thanks for this post and the one with the mules. It made me remember where some of my happiest days were and reflect on why I am sitting in a city, instead of out in the wild.

    I will keep your ideas in mind over the next 14,600 or so days!

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    I hope our dreams come trueLet’s go for a walk,shall we? Things are getting better.Could you tell me what the maximum weight allowance is? He grasped both my hands.They stopped talking when their boss came in.They stopped talking when their boss came in.He was not a bit tired.I wish I lived in NEWYORK.There is a broken small old gray stone bridge over the river

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