Earlier this week, I got a note from an old friend of mine. I’ve known Bob for nigh on 25 years (!!!) and though we don’t see each other very often, we keep in somewhat sporadic contact with each other. So I’ve been able to keep track of Bob and his wife as they’ve moved to all manner of exotic locations around the world.
So anyway, he told me our high school graduating class is having a reunion this summer. And I thought, “Wait… that reunion? Are you sure? That isn’t possible.”
How in the world did so much time pass? What have I been doing all these years?
I don’t particularly miss high school. I’m not nostalgic about it. But I do have a tendency toward sentimentality.
I know in my head, with the cold and unflinching certainty only math can provide, that the time has indeed passed. I can read a calendar as well as the next guy. But in my heart, I look at where I was then, where I am now, and wonder how it took so many years to get here. It’s like reviewing a road trip from Minnesota to New Mexico and discovering the route took you to Venus and the Lesser Magellanic Cloud along the way.
My life as an adult is so much more than I’d envisioned it would be back when I was a high school senior. And I’m grateful for that. Damn grateful. So it’s not like I don’t feel as though I’ve come a long way, a very long way, and in (more or less) the right direction. The person I am now is, I like to believe, almost unrecognizable from the person I was back then. Not because I was a terrible person at the end of high school, but because I wasn’t quite 18 years old. The world has this weird tendency of changing a person. And in ways no 17 year old can quite anticipate.
But it’s very, very difficult to understand where those years went. Even when I count them off. They’re there, they’re present in the roll call of my life. They’re just so… numerous.
I’m not old. I’m certainly not decrepit. By the standards of the world around me I’m still young. But I am… contemplative.
It feels as though it took longer to get here than it ought. I started some endeavors much later than I should have, taken far too long on others, and completely missed the boat on other things that should be well-established parts of my life by now.
When I was a student—in high school, college, grad school—time passed according to the rhythm of the academic year. It unfurled at a stately pace, metered by all the rituals and processes and rites of passage marking the path to the finish line. But once I finished that long journey, I lost the ability to demarcate portions of my life into easily comprehensible chunks. The seas are wider and wilder here; the lighthouses fewer and dimmer.
Time gets away from me. It slips through my fingers.
But it always does that. Even I know that. So why has this put me in a thoughtful mood? Was I thunderstruck by the incontrovertible evidence that time has been slipping away all along? I don’t think so. I’ve always been aware of it. Or so I think. As I say, I’m a sentimental person. I spend more time contemplating the course of my life than perhaps I should.
Time gets away from us. It slips through our fingers.
I mentioned Bob, whom I’ve known since the mid-80s. At least I see him once in a great while. (Why, he and his wife took a vacation to New Mexico just recently. It was only, what, five or six years ago?) My friend Sara, whom I’ve known since 1990 or so, is somebody I’ve seen once in the past 17 or 18 years. (But we saw each other quite recently. Just three and a half years ago, I think. Hardly the blink of an eye compared to the languorous pace of my life.)
How odd that precious life should be punctuated with such long periods of quiescence and dormancy. Adulthood as a John Cage composition.
I don’t know if I’ll attend the reunion or not. Do I want to be reminded of who I was then? Is it worth the effort to try to convey, in one evening, to a bunch of strangers, who I am and how I got from there to here? While they struggle to do the same with me? Not sure. But there’s a strange time-warpy feeling to the fact it’s even an issue. I remember how at the end of high school we made jokes about what we might see at reunions in the seemingly impossibly distant future.
(The funny thing about all this is that Bob’s email was prompted by a list from the reunion committee. Apparently I’m one of those classmates deemed MIA/hard to find. Because I’m not on Facebook, apparently. I guess nobody considered Googling my highly unique name?)