Life is filled with small revelations.
I say small, because the truly grand, life changing ones are almost never experienced or digested in a single afternoon. The truly big revelations are always composed of several smaller ones.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about time. I’ve always liked the metaphor of time as a river. Time is an ever flowing stream, pulling us along while our past recedes ever further into the horizon.
What can I say? I’ve always been a sucker for water metaphors.
I grew up swimming. I swam competitively for most of my childhood and young adulthood—Summer team, winter team, high school, and finally college. August was pretty much my only break during the year, that one month when all the teams had a break. Practices were two hours a day, Monday through Friday. Saturdays were reserved for swim meets and a sixth practice most times. Sunday was a day off. Hell, during the Summers, my friends and I spent most afternoons at our neighborhood pool (the same one I practiced at).
To say that swimming was a huge part of my life was an understatement. In many respects, my life revolved around swimming.
Fast forward to current day—I didn’t save most of my ribbons, medals, trophies, or shirts from back then. Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of people besides me that would ever look at them again, and we only have so much storage space in our house. But I did save a few—one in particular.
Each season, our Summer neighborhood swim team recognized returning swimmers by giving out “Year Trophies”. These got progressively bigger and bigger for each year that someone had swam on the team.
I kept my “Year Trophy” from my final Summer season—it was the trigger of one of those small revelations.
But the Summer league teams stop at eighteen years old. After that, your options are go to college and compete, or join a Masters team for adults.
I swam two years of college before I finally quit swimming competitively. I was going on twenty years old. That was back in 2007. Fourteen years ago.
To this day, I still think of myself as a swimmer. Sure, I rarely make it to the pool to swim laps, and I don’t wear any ‘swimming’ memorabilia, but even after fourteen years, I still think of myself as a swimmer. A “once a swimmer, always a swimmer” kind of thing.
Some of this might be due to working with pools for so long during my adulthood. But even during those years, I didn’t swim laps regularly—I was more likely to lift weights or run or bicycle.
Long preface aside, I was writing the other day, and noticed my “Year Trophy”. I saw the big 2005 date on it, and started realizing that I stopped swimming fourteen years ago (accounting for two years of college). It was even worse than that though, because I only started swimming competitively when I was seven years old.
I swam competitively for a total of fourteen years. I stopped swimming competitively fourteen years ago.
About a minute later (after doing all that mental math), I realized that I’m also coming up on that magical age of thirty-six, when I will officially have been an adult for as long as I was a child.
I guess it’s similar to all those memes about suddenly hearing your childhood favorite songs on the oldies station—or realizing that your childhood wasn’t ten years ago… it was twenty years ago.
So it goes.
I guess that’s how time gets away from us. We keep thinking that our past isn’t as far away as it is. That the years haven’t been passing by as quickly as they have been.
I’m not really sure what we’re supposed to do with a revelation like that. I guess it’s one of the reasons why I’m glad I’ve been working hard at writing these last few years. I wrote all kinds of stories when I was a kid, and never stopped really, but I definitely didn’t push to finish stories like I should have. After my ill-fated publishing attempt back in 2012, I farted around for almost ten years—ten goddamn years! Sure I wrote, but not seriously. Not like I would’ve written if I would’ve realized that the years were passing me by.
Maybe a river isn’t the right metaphor for time. It’s too scenic and nice of a metaphor.
Maybe the right metaphor for time is a swindler. A shady fellow in an overcoat, with his hat pulled low, tricking you into playing mindless games or scrolling social media for hours—slowly taking you for everything you’ve got. You’ve got to keep your wits about you if you don’t want the years to slip out of your grasp. Before you know it, the bastard will take you for five, ten, fifteen years—more if you let him!
So don’t let him. Make the most of your days and don’t fall into that trap of letting the years pass by. Maybe take a crack at writing that story you’ve always wanted to write. Pick up the guitar or start drawing, or whatever else you’ve always wanted to learn but thought you didn’t have the time for.
You have time. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
You just have to figure out how you want to spend it.