I’m sure everyone has heard by now, but Stephen Hawking died just a few days ago.
In a recent post I mentioned that I’m not good with dealing with change. I hate watching everyone get old and die. I really looked up to Stephen Hawking. He did the very type of physics research that I’m most interested in.
I’m middle aged now, but I feel like I’ve only just started life. A lot of that time has been spent just struggling, trying to get traction, and working to get involved in some projects that’re meaningful to me. Then I see Hawking die and it’s like, huh, how much longer do I have? Maybe 40 years? Then I think how quickly time goes by these days and it just hits me hard. It’s like, what am I doing?
Death isn’t even a distant thing for me. I have an old photograph of my family from about ten years ago during a Christmas get together. Half of them are dead now. My grandparents are gone. A bunch of my uncles are now gone. Other family friends are gone. It’s really hard to process.
It’d be one thing if I lived hundreds of thousands of years, or millions of years, and I saw all this happen over eons of time. But no, it’s not like that at all. It’s like, ok, one day I’m a kid and my only thoughts are on video games and sports, then I’m out of school and spend some years trying to build a business and make some money, then bam, before I feel like I’ve even got things moving or anywhere near where I’d like them, my family members start dying left and right, my parents are getting grey hair and are retiring, people I look up to are dying, role models are dying, the entire culture starts shifting and changing, and it’s just too much.
I’ve been watching faculty in my department retire, and even some of them having strokes and dying. Others are having health complications and are on the verge of retirement (some may be forced to retire). If younger guys like me don’t come along, work hard, and get ready to carry the torch when the time comes, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to carry this knowledge and expertise? I can’t just expect that these brilliant people are going to be around forever. They won’t be. They’re here today, gone tomorrow, just like anything else.
Every time I see someone like Hawking die, it’s this stark reminder that I have no time to waste. If you have something meaningful that you’ve always wanted to do, get out there and do it. Right now. Not tomorrow, not even later today, right now. That’s really what his life was like. He was given a death sentence, confined to a wheelchair, could literally only move some tiny portion of his upper lip (I think it was), and he does way more than me. Types out best-selling books, one character at a time, probably (at most) a few words a minute, teaching the world about the universe.
I have so much more to learn about cosmology, quantum field theory, string theory, the workings of our brain, and all of that. My dream for a long time has been to become an expert on the nature of the universe and our mind. I’m working hard at it, but there’s so much more I could be doing. I waste way too much time. I also haven’t been prioritizing my time to the things that really matter to me.
The years just tick by, tick tock, tick tock. Then I wonder, did I make time for those things that are meaningful to me? Did I work to make those things a reality? Or did I just coast, or goof around, wasting time?
What am I doing sitting around reading about Stormy Daniels’ affair with President Trump, wasting my life watching dumb Youtube videos?