We often start to ask ourselves, “Where did the time go?” as we move through more and more milestones in life. Although adults usually feel this passage of time much more significantly than children, none of us are immune to noticing how quickly time marches by. I remember one morning when I drove my fourth grade son to school with a classmate, I was a little surprised to hear the two of them reminiscing about “the good old days of kindergarten”. The boys voiced their disbelief that they were only one year away from middle school and wondered what happened to the coveted simpler days filled with “nap breaks” and “story time”. Their conversation served as a reminder to me that although we cannot slow down time, we can slow ourselves down enough to remember there are “good old days” happening in our lives right now.
Parents, in particular, have ample opportunities to experience the speedy passage of time. Year after year, I have to admit rolling my eyes and hiding behind the cereal box as my husband recorded the kids’ first day of school on those early September mornings. But, thanks to his persistence, we now have a video time lapse of their journey from preschool through high school. This is a priceless treasure that launches us on an emotional roller coaster every time we watch it. We witness our children go from goofy, animated toddlers to self-conscious, sullen teenagers. Those years were imperfect, challenging, rewarding, frustrating and joyful – but, perhaps most of all – fleeting. Although tempter tantrums, sibling bickering and awkward adolescence threatened to make some days seem endless, looking back now, the years flew by in a heartbeat.
The more we celebrate work or wedding anniversaries, high school reunions, or children’s birthdays, the more we realize how important it is not to wish the time away. We do not have a magic wand to make time go more slowly, but the closest we might come to one is a true appreciation for the time we are in right now. Appreciation for the present helps us feel we get the most out of life and makes us less likely to pine away for the past. Maybe you are the more experienced one at work and can offer wisdom and insight that newer employees can benefit from. Maybe you are the college senior, helping the freshman navigate through fears of starting all over again as the youngest at a new school. There will always be someone younger and someone older than you are, and the trick seems to be finding as many ways as possible to enjoy the phase we are in. Take my 91-year-old father, for example, who pointed out the woman celebrating her 100th birthday one table over from him in the retirement apartment’s dining room. As my dad dug into his slice of cake, thankfully still able to enjoy a good dessert, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and remarked, “Wow, and I thought I was old!”
I will have a chance to follow my own advice in a couple months, when, for the second year in a row, we help a young adult transition to college. I can remember, as if it were yesterday, trying to wrestle free from little hands on the first day in the kindergarten classroom. I am sure those days will seem pretty appealing as I drive away from a college campus in another state. Part of me does want to look backward, but I try to remember how fortunate I am to experience the excitement of this chapter in life. I don’t want to miss out on my chance to enjoy where we are now by thinking too much about where we were then. After all, we might not be able to go back in time, but we can find plenty of birthday cake moments to enjoy in our lives right now.
Laura B. joined Empathia in 2000 as an EAP Counselor. Laura has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, with a concentration in marriage and family therapy. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked as a case manager with chronically mentally ill adults readjusting to life in the community. Laura enjoys reading, attending kids’ activities and spending time with family.