CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A co-worker suggested that with the Mayan calendar predicting the world's end in 2012, I should do a column about what people would do if they actually believed this was the last year of their life.
"Personally," said the co-worker, "I'd sell everything I own and use the money to be a nomad, travel the world, see as much as I could."
I liked her answer. My own would be similar, except since I couldn't leave our many critters behind, I'd pack the lot of us into an RV and travel the U.S. -- something I've been dreaming of doing for years.
For the record, I don't believe the Mayan calendar theory. I mean, my own calendar ends on Dec. 31 -- every year. Who's to say the Mayans didn't simply believe enough was enough, or their chisel broke, or they ran out of rock? Still, I was intrigued with the idea of how people might behave differently if they thought this year were their last.
The late Steve Jobs once said that being handed a death sentence brings to the forefront what is really important, that it frees you to be who you really are.
"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered," said Jobs, "because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure -- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
The amount of time we have is such a crapshoot it seems curious that we aren't better about pursuing what means the most to us. We never know when the anvil with our name on it is going to drop.
But like most people, money -- or the absence of it -- prevents us from doing what we most want to do. I spend much of my own days chasing the dollar, seldom catching enough of them to cover even the simplest of needs, much less something more.