If life has taught me anything at all, it’s that time is fluid. Stretchy. Compressible. Short moments that last forever, and years that pass in a blink. As The Doctor (in Doctor Who, the weird British sci-fi series that itself has become somewhat eternal) would say, it’s a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing. But mostly, for those of us who lack a time machine, time basically accelerates… with time… and before you know it, your whole life is behind you.
Now, technically, everyone’s whole life is always behind them. Since, you see, the future has not happened yet, therefore it does not exist, therefore all the life that anyone has is that which they’ve already had, therefore their whole life is behind them, always. But– that’s an argument against myself, and as a rule I don’t allow that, so we’ll dispense with the technicalities and move on!
Where was I? Oh, yes. So, there’s this thing, this trap, that many of us fall into. This trap where we say, “When I get all this other stuff sorted, I’ll take the trip. I’ll remodel the spare room. I’ll learn the piano. I’ll write that book. I’ll bungee-jump the Royal Gorge. After I get all this other stuff sorted.” (I’m using “sorted” in the British sense, which means that I’ve been watching too much of The Crown and Doctor Who and The Chronicles of Narnia again. Maybe it’s British entertainment that’s my personal trap?) In other words, we allow the mundane to control our existence, and we allow that which is special to slip away.
I’ll use my wife’s aunt and uncle as an example. During their entire marriage, he worked long hours and put everything into his job, not spending much time with his wife (except just enough moments to generate a bunch of kids). Saving all the fun for when he retired. Sacrificing the present for the future, which I suspect included their relationship, which I also suspect may be why she smoked and drank. So, one day, the future finally arrived, it was time for him to retire, and he did so– just in time for her to be found with cancer. In a matter of a few short months, she was gone. So remind me: why was it that he worked so hard all those years and spent all that time away from her?
Well, maybe Uncle Jack preferred to spend time at work than with Aunt Kitty. If so, then good for him, although I bet Aunt Kitty didn’t prefer that. Not unless she liked to drink alone or something. Even if he was living his preferred life, she wasn’t, and suddenly it was gone. So maybe the lesson to learn here is, take charge of your own dang life.
I think that Jack and Kitty’s story provide a multifaceted object lesson, but the overall summation might be, don’t let time slip away.
Well, that’s all very cheery stuff, Jim (you say). I come here to read about hobbies and modeling, and you’re laying this heavy philosophical crap on us?
Stay with me. This has application of a positive nature, and I’ll give you an example from my own hobby set, railroading. You see, I dearly love to ride trains, especially in scenic places like the mountains of Colorado. The top of that heap is the line west of Denver on the Moffat Line (now owned by Union Pacific and served by Amtrak). Starting in 1993 I started dragging the family up from New Mexico to ride the erstwhile Ski Train up the mountain and back, at least once a year. Eventually I started getting the dreaded “not again!” response from people, and I reluctantly gave up on the idea. Then in 2009 the Ski Train was abruptly cancelled and I lost that opportunity, forever. So, let’s list the regrets from this. Do I regret the 10 or 12 trips we made to ride the train? No. Do I regret giving up the trips while they were still possible? Yes.
But now, I can remedy the situation! Thanks to Amtrak– and I can’t believe I’m thanking Amtrak for anything– there’s a new service over the same route, called the Winter Park Express. This (2018) is the second full year of service, and I took the initiative to book a trip. And yes, we’re making a family event of it. After a hiatus of 14 years, we will be riding through the Tunnel District once again. Hopefully not for the last time, either.
I’m making an effort to apply this principle to other areas in my life. I realize that I have wasted literally decades in needless frustration staying with depressing organizations, simply because I felt too guilty or duty-bound or just plain loyal to find a better situation. No more. Next time, and the next, I will simply, and without bitterness, move on. I refuse to get sucked into the drama of other people’s bad choices. I choose to decide where the boundaries are, and to respect them. Love is one thing; needless self-imposed misery is another! Getting a little far afield from riding trains here, but it’s connected in the sense that I just don’t want to waste any more of my time on pointless futility. The larger share of my life is behind me now (even if you ignore the second paragraph in this essay). My time is precious.
But, in the main, Time is an unsympathetic teacher, a terrible taskmaster, and a cunning trickster. As we age it quietly speeds up on us. If you’re not careful, you can fritter it all away. You have to remember to actively look for chances, else they will simply… pass you by.
Some smart Roman dude once said, Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Avail yourself of opportunities. Don’t let the moment pass by. Take the trip. Remodel the spare room. Learn to play the piano. Write that book. Bungee-jump the Royal Gorge. You can sort the laundry when you get home. There’s all the time in the world to take care of the mundane stuff.