Time the Avenger

Time is on my mind. Time is always on your mind when you get to be a certain age, and while I’ve always been obsessed to a greater or lesser extent with the passage of time (when I was in college I kept tally of where I’d been on a given exact date five and ten years previously and made predictions about where I’d be five and ten years hence), as you get older, the obsession is no longer a hobby or a pastime – it’s simply an inescapable reality, as close to you as your dreams when you’re asleep. There are occasions when I’ve got another five hours to go in an already long day and want this whole grad school experience to be “over.” Yet at the same time I remind myself as often as I can that it will be all over, in a matter of less than seven months, which is amazing, considering that when I started this whole journey it seemed like it would last forever. And then what? Who knows. We are going to be here another year at least, given that Steve needs to get his education degree. And I will work, at something, hopefully gainfully. Yet time seems to press on you. I especially think of how looming time becomes when I walk around campus among a crowd of kids that are close to half my age. They are all so blithe about time; it’s their insidiously ingratiating friend, they have nothing but time, they don’t think of it at all except as something to take for granted. It’s elastic and boundaryless, like a virtual-reality playground. I know this because I had the same feelings about time at that stage in my life myself and can feel the vapor of those exact same feelings rising from the undergrads as they stroll by, laughing, happy, oblivious. I concede that I was much more the brooding sort than most undergrads when I was at that point in my own life, but even so, time seemed generous and warm and full as many days as not, indeed it sometimes felt lazily voluptuous in its abundance (especially in a serene environment like Northern California), and it took effort to remember time and how little of it was left, except when I was blindsided by it every now and then, like in the cataclysms of world events, or in the realization that there was only a month of my year overseas, or only a semester of college, period. Now those deadlines feel at once more mortal and more mundane. Funny how that is. You expect the shocks of time as you advance in years, particularly as people and other loved ones around you move on or pass away, or as cultural icons that shaped your life pass on, and even when those shocks startle you and throw you for a loop, as they inevitably do, you are still somehow less naïve about them, less strangled by their cruelty. I don’t know when that feeling of expectation (not to say vigilance) starts to grow on you. Probably in your mid-20s. It’s something I ponder when I look at those carefree undergrads during these autumn days.