As I enter the thirty-sixth year or so of my mid-life crisis, I find myself once again standing at a creative crossroads. I just finished reading this post, where (exactly) two years ago I decided to put Back to the Fridge on hiatus.
Before continuing, let me repeat a key part of that sentence. Two years ago. How is that even possible? I can remember a time in my life where two years lasted exactly two years. I think by my mid-twenties, two years lasted around eighteen months. By my early thirties, I was lucky if I could get it to last eleven months. Even with all the experience, though, none of that prepared me for the time now where two years passes in roughly nine days.
Sidebar. I’m nowhere alone. The sensation is virtually universal. And there is, indeed, a rational explanation for it, which I won’t bore you with here. (But if you’re curious, the short version is that the brain is incapable of storing time. So although you’re consciously aware of the fact that two years have passed, those years basically take up about the same amount of your brain’s quick-access memory as nine days does. That creates the illusion of speed.)
So there I was, “nine days” ago, talking about how I’d done all I could with this blog and how I needed to get on with my bucket list. And now look at me.
Ars Longa, Vita Brevis
For those unfamiliar with this phrase, I’ll spare you from a quick Google search. It’s typically and (in my opinion) almost too succinctly translated as, “Art is long, life is short.” I feel this misses the mark by a long shot. For one, art here doesn’t mean paintings, music, or what we might call fine art. In this sense, it’s a craft, skill, or technique. Think instead of, “The Art of _____.”
Perhaps that’s why I like Geoffrey Chaucer’s version more: “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” In a few misspelled words, it sums up what so many humans have felt through the centuries: how it takes forever to truly master a skill, yet life flies by in a blink of an eye. And believe me, I have skills that need mastering and time is not slowing down one bit.
I suffer from a chronic case of productivitis. I have to be constantly producing something. This condition is often mistaken for a completely different affliction, workaholism, and certainly there are traits shared between the concepts. I think the distinguishing characteristic is that the workaholic just works to work. For me, I don’t want to work at all. I want to read books, watch television, and play games. However, those endeavors aren’t (in and of themselves) productive. I must have tangible output and it must have meaning to other human beings. If this isn’t happening, I’m miserable.
Two Years Later
So here I am, two years later. Granted, that whole chemo thing put a dent in my 2012 plans. But it also did something else to me. It turned up the heat on my productivitis condition. After all, the medical industry spent a half million dollars to drag me back from the brink.
I was acutely aware of this at the time and I clearly remember during my last chemo session thinking, “Wow, I really should make this all worth it.” If my life were a movie, that would have been the point where the music swelled and the audience got to experience a moving and emotional montage of me knocking off project after project after project.
Instead, here’s yet another blog post. Sigh.
As we embark on a new year, every opportunity seems to open before us. With one turn of the calendar, we suddenly become empowered to do anything. We can lose that last twenty pounds. We can tackle those personal projects we’ve been putting off. We can even quit smoking crack and resign our post as mayor of Toronto. Anything is possible.
And I’ve fallen for that before. But this year, I thought of something else. Why devise such major, sweeping resolutions each January? Just try to better yourself one tiny little bit every single day. Isn’t that more doable and, in the end, much more satisfying? They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So take those steps, one at a time, and see where you end up. Even if you don’t make it the whole thousand miles, at least you won’t be standing still.
Just don’t forget to stop for fries along the way.