There was a poster demonstration for the summer students that stayed on campus to do research this summer. While attending the session two things became obvious. First, science has moved along so far, so fast, that I am way out of date. The second thing that I noticed is that I’m on the “other side” now. A classmate of mine was there and he mentioned that when we were in school, there were a lot of “old farts” that were teaching us and taking us through our rounds. We are the old farts now. It happened so quickly.
It is astonishing, when you get to a certain age, to look back and realize that it went by in the blink of an eye. Getting caught up in the day to day activities, meeting deadlines, planning for the future and focusing on all of the matters that need attending each day, blurs the passage of time. Then, almost suddenly, you realize that years have passed.
When my girls were young, I would ponder what it would be like when they were in school during the day, then, when they no longer needed constant supervision. These periods seem to be long and lingering. Now, grown, with lives of there own, the past is just a memory and all of the milestones that I used to anticipate have passed and have largely been forgotten.
It goes so quickly. Conversations now are often about someone that has retired from working or have left us completely. It is a new perspective. The questions of career, marriage and children are largely behind us and this opens new opportunities and presents a sadness.
I liken it to a board game. At the beginning, the dice are thrown and how well you do early makes a huge difference in how the game plays out. If you manage to get the good properties or sets of properties early, you are set. Now, most of the properties are owned by a few of the players and it is just a matter of a few more dice throws before someone comes out a winner. The game has played itself out.
This sounds melancholy and sad, it is anything but. The trick is to have enjoyed each move, to have savoured the time and any lucky throws you had while the game was being played. It is good to know that there may still be some get out of jail free cards left in the pile.
There appeaars to be a certain amount of responsibility to share this perspective with those that are younger. To let them know that it does pass really quickly and that they need to stop, take stock and see if they are on the right path. It is too easy to travel down the wrong road for a huge amount of your life and have it disappear into memories.
Our generation was taught that a certain amount of “paying dues” was required for success. This entire notion seems dated. With the tech boom and a constantly shifting economy, it is difficult to argue that doing anything, for any amount of time, that you truly despise is worth while.
There is the reality that we all must have money to ensure food and shelter, but how much money is enough money? Are we really playing a cosmic board game where whoever has the most property wins? Or are we playing an ongoing game with the winners being those who realize early that enjoying the game means that you’ve done what you came here to do?
With the frantic pace of life, that continues to speed up, I fear that large numbers of people will grow old before they realize that this is not a dress rehearsal for some future performance. The dance is now. Life does not begin when you graduate, lose weight, get the promotion or have the baby. Life is now. This is it. It is important to stop, take stock, look around and realize that today is all we have and tomorrow is not only forever elusive, but holds no guarantees.
I may still be reeling from the loss of Robin Williams. He is a man that I never knew, but I somehow expected him to always be there, creating more comedy, contributing to the happiness in the ether. Many people that I have loved are no longer in my life. They have either gone onto the next thing, or are simply memories, even though I may see them again in the future.
Anyhow, this is the mood I’m in. As I dash through my days quickly and each year ticks off, I feel somehow responsible to make sure that those around me realize that life does end. We don’t know how long we have or how long those that we love have. So stop, assess and enjoy.
My classmate and I made a futile attempt to explain this to the young students that we were talking to at the time. We told them of how fast it went. We discussed how the tables had turned and we were now the “old farts” and we tried to impress upon them that they too, if they were lucky, would become the next group of “old farts”.
With the summer sun shining, a new school year on the horizon and hopes and dreams of the future, I fear our message was lost. They had too much to do, too much too see and too many dreams for the future to realize that today is what is really important.