Another month begins. The second month of the 11th year after 2000. Forgive me for the introspection, but it all happened so quickly.
I remember thinking, as a teen, that at the turn of the millennium, I’d be impossibly ancient — probably decrepit, if not outright dead.
That was before I knew that time collapses — that there is a point where it becomes a long and steepening slope, where it goes faster and faster with every passing year, every passing month. And those years and months pass fast.
And, sure, I know that in reality, time is a strict constant, and that a minute tomorrow will be just as long as a minute today.
But also I remember when a year took years to cycle through, when “when you’re 20, you can do what you like” seemed like a judge pronouncing a prison sentence.
But January began five minutes ago, and I didn’t have any time to think about it, so I thought I’d wait until I had a minute to consider the new year, and what I might want for it. And then, January was gone. It took no longer than a drive to the Northern Peninsula from St. John’s to wick away, a drive where you didn’t even stop in Grand Falls to grab a bite of lunch.
Next month, too
February will go equally fast, I know, followed by a sprinting March, and the only slim benefit of it all is that a suddenly-short winter will be followed by an equally-short summer, and damn it, we’ll be right back to January all over again.
If you’re older than 45, you know exactly what I mean. And you’ll also know that there’s precious little than any of us can do about it.
I’m sure there are those among us who remember the ’70s and ’80s tripping past equally quickly, and I can’t help but think that we’re our own worst enemies.
Work was work
I can remember the clear-cut definition that used to exist for my parents between work and home: home at the end of the day, they might talk about the trials and travails of academic life or the latest boss to bedevil my mother’s work as a commercial illustrator, but if the phone rang, it was a friend.
Work calls were the most uncommon of things, and email wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s eye.
Now, the distinction is far less clear. The workday bulges on both ends, filled with time zones that get to work earlier and later than you do, each with their own urgent kind of request. Electronics have melted away the concept of someone being on call. Now, we are all on call, the only difference being that few of us get paid for it anymore.
I think that as the walls have gone down between what used to be the segments of a day, those days have begun to move more quickly: a cellphone is a leash as much as it is a freedom, and email is just another way for employers to get overtime for free.
Not living in the past
Now, I’m not strictly lamenting the loss of times now gone — what I am saying is there is a signal change in the way time moves, and that change has to do with the signal that now connects most of us.
Might as well try to hold water in your hands.
I know a poet who refuses to have email or a cellphone — he is tremendously successful at what he does, and he speaks with an unhurried ease that makes you think that he has all the time in the world.
And perhaps, because he doesn’t parcel every moment out on a plan here or a computer there, he actually does.
Maybe I’d explain this better if I had more time. But someone’s texting me about something, and the little box on the computer that tells me there’s email is flashing.
I’ve got minutes to pack with trivialities here. Hours of deep thought will probably have to wait — until April, or maybe 2012.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.