When I was in high school, I and my friends liked to spend our lunches in the classroom of Mr. E. He taught Literature, and we ended up having him for several classes through the years. In our senior year, we were having a discussion with him about how much we couldn’t wait to graduate high school, and about how old we felt, and that sort of thing. During the discussion, he said something that’s stuck with me.
When you’re young, the years are long and the days are short. But when you’re old, the years are short and the days are long.
I don’t know if he actually cribbed that from somewhere in literature. He probably did. But it’s a sentiment I started to understand at the time.
These days, I understand it even more.
What I do not think I was prepared for when I and my wife had kids was how it would so heavily impact—and dominate—our schedules. With each phase of my life, I feel like I have no more free time, and then I reach the next phase, and realize just how wrong I was. So it has also been with kids.
Daily life with kids is exhausting in a way totally unlike a gym workout or doing yardwork. It’s a daily, overwhelming grind, from the ringing of alarms in the morning to going to bed later than I should just because it’s the first time I’ve gotten some peace and quiet all day. By the time I finally turn off the lights and get my mind to stop racing, it’s hard to believe it’s been only sixteen or seventeen hours since I began; twenty-six or twenty-seven more matches how I feel.
But when I think about things like how long I’ve been at my job, or how long since my youngest child was born, it’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year. It sometimes feels like yesterday I was cradling my eldest child in my arms. Or getting married. Or even graduating college. I have to sometimes remind myself that it was almost a decade ago.
Those in my readership who are older than me are no doubt nodding their heads, saying “You ain’t seen nothing yet”. I don’t doubt them. I still sometimes forget that I’m no longer in my twenties. My body no longer has the stamina it once did—nor the capacity for abuse I once gave it. Yet, it seems I have even more taxing it.
I also think of my eldest, and I often get glimpses of how she views time. Everything happens so fast for her; by the end of the day, she seems to feel like she just hasn’t seen enough or heard enough or talked enough that day. Every day ends for her before it should1, and all of the things she needs to be “older” for seem so far away. No, she’s too small to go on roller coasters. No, she’s too young to drink what her mommy’s drinking. Life is a series of “wait until your older” speeches, and those moments are forever away.
Whereas, at my age, I miss the halcyon days where I had something to look forward to as I got older. Driving. Drinking.2 My car insurance going down. College. A career.
I miss the days when I had free time, no matter how much I squandered it, much as my children squander their boundless enthusiasm and energy. Instead, I have to find a corner here or there to have to myself, and I have to parcel out that time with great care, even though in reality I still waste so much of it on things I later regret.
In high school, I was a bit of a poet. Most of it is3 dreck. But there are some in there that I really am proud of. I say this as I did capture an essence of the life I would later lead in one of them in some of its lines.
Life churns on in endless task
Around once more is all we ask
I just had no idea what those words really meant. I still don’t know if I do yet. I don’t really have the time to think about it, anymore.