A lot of ghosts ask me how long they have to stick around before moving on to the next level. Some of them are bored. They're over this whole ‘Earth’ thing. They just want to get to Heaven and all the amazing stuff on offer over there, most notably free valet parking and all-you-can-eat ribs. Of course they’ll learn that even Heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. All-you-can-eat ribs is only on Fridays. Admittedly every day in Heaven is a Friday, if only because God noticed so many people on Earth were thanking him for it.
Other ghosts wonder about how long they have on Earth because they’re enjoying it so much. Maybe they really love scaring breathers (those are living people). That makes total sense to me. Making a breather pee their pants is a singular joy. Other ghosts get into more obscure spectral pursuits like collecting celebrity ectoplasm or trying to float through every single Arby’s location on Earth, but hey ghosts can be weirdos too. I’ve only got eight Arby’s left by the way.
Whatever the case, most of you will get a hundred years to be a ghost. The exception is if you had a violent death. Then your time here could be much, much longer. The rules behind this are complicated - even I don’t fully understand them. I’ve met ghosts from ancient Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, the Revolutionary War. Eventually they move on but I’m not sure how.
Interestingly, I’ve been able to see roughly when ghosts started appearing. For instance, you don’t see many cavemen ghosts as it took a while for humanity to perfect the sort of character flaws that made ghosthood a necessity. Cavemen were more like animals, acting on instinct more than selfishness or arrogance. No need to teach them the lessons inherent in being a ghost.
I did meet one caveman ghost, though. Grok. What an asshole that guy was. I think he actually invented theft. At least he bragged about doing it. “Grok was first person to think ‘Hey if Grok take bear pelt from Nuk-luk then it become Grok bear pelt.’ So Grok do it. True story.” In a perhaps related incident, Nuk-luk invented murder soon after.
So barring a violent death, it’s up to you how long you want to be a ghost. You can make good on your mistakes the first week you’re a specter and be done with it. Or you can relax and hang out until your 99th year before you do anything, like I’m doing. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
As far as getting your ghost duties over with quickly, I’ve known a lot of people who went that direction. Some of them just felt they'd been on this world long enough. I mean, a lot of things that bothered you when you were alive will bother you as a ghost. Politics. Kazoos. Monkeys that throw poop. Your many ghost powers are useless against such threats. And you can still smell so that means you're susceptible to terrible odors. Rotten garbage. Septic tanks. Poop thrown by monkeys.
Other people are just type A workaholics who see no point in drawing out the whole ghost thing if they don't need to. Some of them figure out action plans of atonement and quickly make up for whatever they did. But others find out that their type A personality is actually what they need to atone for - they worked too hard and ignored their families and friends. They try to atone quickly but it doesn't take until years later after they've learned some patience. It's really fun to watch.
And if you want to take your time leaving ghosthood, that has its advantages too. For one thing, you can spend decades enjoying your ghost superpowers. Always new people to scare. Always new things to float through. And it's not like you'll be taking your powers with you to Heaven. You'll have powers there but given everyone there has them they're not really powers so much as traits. You won't have the joy of inflicting your powers on your powerless inferiors. AKA breathers.
Or maybe you just want to hang out and read books or see every movie ever made. Or hang out with other ghosts, maybe meet some of your favorite dead celebrities. I was happy I stuck around if only because I got to meet ghosts like Billy the Kid, Bruce Lee, and Edgar Allan Poe. And those are just the ones I met at Arby’s. Man that was a crazy night.
But if you want to wait, keep in mind the risks. If you don’t atone for your life errors by the 100-year deadline then you will be going to a place that’s hot, overcrowded, and miserable and no it isn’t Miami.
One of my ghost acquaintances who came very close to the edge was Victor Hugo. I’ve never seen such a procrastinator. He work ethic was misérable. The only way he could get anything done as a breather was to strip naked and tell his servant not to give him clothes back until he got work done. But ghosts can’t take off their clothes. I hear Victor waited to his last day to atone - May 22, 1985 - and even then only after attending a matinee showing of Rambo: First Blood Part 2. He had felt the first one left things unfinished.
JOSH KRAVITZ is not actually a ghost. At least, not yet. It will be days, if not weeks before that happens (he really needs to eat better). Josh lives in Los Angeles with his fiancee, their dog, and crippling self-doubt.