As another year ticks down to a close, I’m reminded of how our perception of time changes as we get older. When you’re young a single hour is a significant amount of time. Events are new, and routines to turn those daily events into mundane happenings don’t yet exist for you. You build up experiences – both good and bad – and they all stand out from one another because they haven’t happened before. “Remember that awesome spin out on my big wheel? That was cool!” Life feels long. So much time ahead.
Then the world starts encroaching with its watches, clocks, timers, scheduling. We lose our natural rhythms, to be replaced by the world-wide schedules of economics. Our education takes on a schedule: Gym on Thursdays, Music on Tuesdays, extra recess on Fridays. Even the glory of that extra recess fades to a blasse “Oh yeah, today is extra recess, I forgot,” moment. We went from every hour being unique, to every day, then to every weekday. But, we still have Winter, Spring, and Summer breaks. Bring on the vacations!
Life goes on, and we start to work (hopefully). And we work. And we work. And work. The uniqueness of Monday fades away, and every day is like the last, so that the whole week in retrospect looks like one elongated day, broken up only by the weekend. And each week looks like every other week. As the months and then years start to pile on, it gets harder and harder to pick out just one day – ONE DAY – from a midst all those blurred days that became so… routine.
A few years ago, I looked back and found that this had happened to me. Life was flying by – not in hours, days or weeks, but whole MONTHS felt the same. It was getting to the point a year felt like just any other year. Fortunately, I found cycling, and moreover, cycling events. When I looked back on the year, I couldn’t remember much of my weekly rides, but the events stood out clear as day. Unique, different, events that couldn’t be blurred into the rest of the year; into the mundane and regularly scheduled programming.
That’s when it hit me. Life isn’t the hours, days, weeks and months we live and breath. Life is the culmination of what we do and the experiences we have. If every week you do the same thing, then when you look back over a year, you’re really looking back over a single week! If every day you do the same thing, then your year is now just a single day! But if you do things: go to broadway shows, take up a hobby like cycling or dancing or running and participate in those events (not just the training), all of a sudden you look back over a year and… it’s changed. Yeah, your work weeks feel the same. Yeah, you still go shopping and pay bills. But hey, remember when you took your kids to a amusement park you’ve never been to (even if it sucked)? Remember that massive hill you had to climb on the Dam J.A.M. up in Pryor? Remember that blasting ice wind in your face while running that first half marathon? Remember the beautiful downhill as you coasted into the finish of your first century?
Instead of just one year-lengthed day, you have now have maybe 5, 10, 15 events that stand out for that ONE YEAR. Then the next year you do more, and then the next year more! Eventually, no year is like the one before it. No week feels the same. The mundane starts to fade away under a deluge of unique experiences. And your anticipation of new, upcoming events washes away the remaining vestiges of Time’s all-powerful “schedule.”
I’m not saying it’s easy. You can’t just go out and break away from all the routines we so carefully put into place to make it easier to withstand the pressures of our overly-complex and repetitive lives. But you’ve gotta start somewhere. Otherwise when you look back as I did, instead of having a massively long and fulfilled life, you’ll just have a reallllllly long work day with a few cherished, stand-out moments spread across a rather grey fog of memory.
Start small. Try a new restaurant – even if it’s horrible! See a new show. Try a waltz instead of a fox trot. Change up the beat. Ride a new path. Make your life so full that even as our own clocks wind down, it won’t matter. Because the time we have left will feel like an eternity of possibilities. And we can’t wait to get started on all of them.
Happy New Year!