These 12 graphics teach us the importance of prioritizing our friends and family.

This post was originally published on Wait But Why.

In a previous post, we laid out the human lifespan visually.

By years:


By months:

And by weeks:

While working on that post, I also made a days chart, but it seemed a bit much, so I left it out. But fuck it.

The days chart blows my mind as much as the weeks chart. Each of those dots is only a single Tuesday or Friday or Sunday, but even a lucky person who lives to 90 will have no problem fitting every day in their life on one sheet of paper.

But since doing the Life in Weeks post, I’ve been thinking about something else.

Instead of measuring your life in units of time, you can measure it in activities or events. To use myself as an example:

I’m 34, so let’s be super optimistic and say I’ll be hanging around drawing stick figures till I’m 90. If so, I have a little under 60 winters left:

And maybe around 60 Super Bowls:

The ocean is freezing, and putting my body into it is a bad life experience, so I tend to limit myself to around one ocean swim a year. So as weird as it seems, I might only go in the ocean 60 more times:

Not counting Wait But Why research, I read about five books a year, so even though it feels like I’ll read an endless number of books in the future, I actually have to choose only 300 of all the books out there to read and accept that I’ll sign off for eternity without knowing what goes on in all the rest.

Growing up in Boston, I went to Red Sox games all the time, but if I never move back there, I’ll probably continue at my current rate of going to a Sox game about once every three years — meaning this little row of 20 represents my remaining Fenway visits:

There have been eight U.S. presidential elections during my lifetime and about 15 to go. I’ve seen five presidents in office, and if that rate continues, I’ll see about nine more.

I probably eat pizza about once a month, so I’ve got about 700 more chances to eat pizza. I have an even brighter future with dumplings. I have Chinese food about twice a month, and I tend to make sure six dumplings occurs each time, so I have a fuckton of dumplings to look forward to:

But these things aren’t what I’ve been thinking about. Most of the things I just mentioned happen with a similar frequency during each year of my life, which spreads them out somewhat evenly through time. If I’m around a third of my way through life, I’m also about a third of my way through experiencing the activity or event.

What I’ve been thinking about is a really important part of life that, unlike all of these examples, isn’t spread out evenly through time—something whose ratio of already done and still to come doesn’t at all align with how far I am through life: relationships.

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super-optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the 10 days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with Mom and Dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents — assuming I’m as lucky as can be — this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.

The same often goes for old friends. In high school, I sat around playing hearts with the same four guys about five days a week. In four years, we probably racked up 700 group hangouts. Now, scattered around the country with totally different lives and schedules, the five of us are in the same room at the same time probably 10 days each decade. The group is in its final 7%.

So what do we do with this information? Setting aside my secret hope that technological advances will let me live to 700, I see three takeaways here:

1. Living in the same place as the people you love matters.

I probably have 10 times the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2. Priorities matter.

Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you — not by unconscious inertia.

3. Quality time matters.

If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Visit Wait But Why to read the post this post was based on: "Your Life in Weeks."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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