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One of my earliest memories is of a morning when I was approximately age 4 years and 11 months old. It was early and still dark, and I was sitting at the end of my parents bed, begging them to let me turn 5 years old a month early. I can’t remember exactly why I wanted to be 5, nor why I couldn’t patiently wait just one more month. Perhaps it was the promise of a fun birthday party, or birthday gifts. Maybe 5 just sounded way more sophisticated than 4. I’m not sure. But I do remember my mother scolding me in a “did you seriously just wake us up at 5:30 am to ask us this?” sort of way, and feeling exasperated that she couldn’t grasp the severity of my very monumental concern. At age 4 years and 11 months, time seemingly stood still. A day in my life felt like a year, a month seemed like an eternity. I needed to be 5 right that very minute, and waiting a month felt, at the time, downright impossible.
Spoiler alert: eventually my birthday arrived and I did turn 5. Shocking, I know. But over the next 30 years of my life, and even to this day, every time someone would mention how “time flies when you get older”, my mind would immediately think of that very moment as 4 year, 11 month old me, when time seemingly stood still. It has always been the litmus for my reference of time for as long as I can remember. For so many years I wondered when I would hit that “time flies when you get older” phase, and wondered what my 4 year, 11 month old self would think of it.
This week, it happened.
All at once an entire lifetime seemed to pass in an instant. I had a stark realization of how quickly goals can get away from you, if you turn your back for just one second. How those babies that were just screaming in their car seats in your backseat are now in the front seat, questioning the legitimacy of certain traffic rules (and your driving abilities). Or hell, how I suddenly became old enough to have babies, neverrmind pre-teens. How friends you feel like you just met are suddenly the most important people in your lives, and those that you once thought would be around forever are now complete strangers. You can’t remember life without the new friends, and find it bittersweet that you can barely recognize the old friends in pictures. You suddenly realize it’s been two and a half years since you’ve been “home”, and that’s the longest you’ve been away in your entire life…and it feels wrong. And worst of all, you suddenly realize how if you let your guard down for too long, you can lose one of the most important things in the world: your self.
All of these realizations can feel like a sucker punch to the gut, a reminder that time stands still for no one. Life, after all, happens. Responsibilities sometimes get in the way of dreams. Babies grow up and turn into perfect young men that accidentally get into a fight at school one day, getting them kicked out of afterschool care and suddenly you’ve lost your 100 mile training time (yeah…). People come and go in and out of your life, sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a visit home is more than a couple of paychecks away so you hold on to hope for the next month.
Yes, 35 year 7 month old Heather realizes that life happens, and you can’t stop it. And I think deep down, 4 year 11 month old Heather knew it was inevitable too, which is why that moment in time so very many years ago remains so clearly etched into my memory.
But the one thing that feisty little girl who was so confident in herself that she had the audacity to ask time to change just for her would NOT approve of is the fact that I’ve temporarily lost sight of one of the things that is most important to me:
If that’s not vague, I don’t know what is. Sorry. But I do feel better for writing this ambiguous post, so interpret as you wish. Let’s just say, sometimes the world presents you with a sequence of events that can either tear you down, or wake you up. I chose the latter.
Be true to yourself, always.