Right on Time

The other day in my car, I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw a girl — probably 17 or 18 — driving a small compact and having a good time listening to the music she was blaring.

I was immediately transported back to being that same age.

“If only she knew,” I thought. “If only she knew how quickly the time will pass.”

It seems like just yesterday I was driving to and from high school, staying late for practice, feeling perfectly fine about leaving the house with wet hair and no makeup just so I could maximize my sleeping time each morning. I remember going to Del Taco for every meal that I ate outside of my house, and I remember somehow fitting homework, music, writing and friends in.

I remember my first boyfriend, the innocence of those years, working at Disneyland during the summers, my high school graduation party with friends, family and neighbors and the excitement of leaving home to go to college in Michigan.

If only she knew how quickly five years will pass.

I glanced in the rearview mirror again and wondered if she regrets anything about her life up until this point, or if she will in the years to come. I wondered what it’s like to have no regrets at all. I wondered if she’d go to college and do things that she wished she hadn’t, or if she wouldn’t go and simply wished that she had.

If only she knew how quickly ten years will pass.

I remember living on my own in Redondo Beach and living paycheck to paycheck — such are the early years in advertising. I remember walking on the Esplanade night after night to pass the time when I was running short on money. I remember reckless years dating anyone who wanted to go out, even though I knew they weren’t right for me; I remember my “time-fillers,” as I called them. I remember moving across the country to Connecticut. I wondered if she was from the area, and if she was — if she’ll leave. If she leaves, I wonder if she’ll miss home the way I did.

If only she knew how quickly twenty years will pass.

I look at my life now, and I love it. It took a while to realize I needed to put myself first, and — more importantly — to take care of myself. It took a while to realize that if I was tired at 8pm, I could very well go to bed at 8pm. And that if I didn’t feel like having a cocktail or glass of wine on a Friday or Saturday, that’s OK, too. It took a while to find my voice, to be OK with the voice I found, and to sometimes be OK with not making a sound at all — although I think that part of me has always sort of been there.

I wondered if she would look back in 15 or 20 years — like I was doing — and realize how quickly the time passes. “In the blink of an eye,” they say.

And, indeed, it’s true.

If time went any slower, we’d probably be more impatient than we as a people already are. And if time went any faster, we’d wish for it to slow down more often than we do.

Somehow, time is exactly as it should be: right on the money.

Right on time.

We’ll look in the rearview mirrors of our lives and wonder where it all went. We’ll look at those younger than us and hope that they can find the contentment in their years that we may have lacked. And we’ll look at them and hope they’re good to themselves to the point where they won’t want to fast-forward through a rough period only to get to the next ocean of smooth-sailing. Because it all passes so quickly that it’s a shame to make it pass any faster.

Tonight I am thankful for the quick rewind and spin down memory lane, and the awareness that life passes by in the blink of an eye, it seems. What to do? Perhaps start a journal? Perhaps something else? Time is time. It is the only way we know it — steady, sure and moving past us second by second. And what they say couldn’t be more true: Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift — that’s why they call it the present.

Here’s to us all unwrapping our presents as slowly as possible, cherishing the wrapping paper and not letting even those seemingly insignificant seconds pass us by.

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