Reflections upon 20 years and the elasticity of time
I’ve always tried not to take time for granted. Even in my mid-20s I was keenly aware of how old I was, how much older I was getting and how quickly, and was always questioning whether I was older than the guy in the beer commercial, who represented some sort of ideal youthful adult age within the ultimate demographic. I knew even then that it was a silly notion to care about, but I also knew that one day I would wake up and not be young anymore. That somehow didn’t stop me from wasting a lot of time. Maybe I do take time for granted.
My years as a 20-something single guy disappeared long ago (the “20-something” longer ago than the “single guy”), but in retrospect that period in my life lasted for a long time, and it’s strange to think how long I was locked into that routine. I spent the better part of a decade living in the same cheap apartment and going to the same job. (Even if the job title changed a few times, it was still essentially the same deal.) Without a doubt not coincidentally, these were days that marked the most active period of my online reviewing activities.
Right before I turned 30, I met the woman who would eventually become my wife. We lived two hours apart for nearly five years until we got married. A couple years after that, after my services were no longer deemed necessary at the newspaper where I worked, I changed industries. (That’s a story for another day, but also the best career move that could’ve happened to me.) Then, two years ago, we welcomed our first child, our daughter. Six months later we moved into the house that, if things play out as planned (you can only make plans, not guarantees), will be the house we still live in when we retire. At the end of January, we welcomed our second child, our son. We have ourselves an idyllic family unit, and things are going great. I really couldn’t ask for more. To say the last few years have been eventful would be an understatement. That this hopefully helps explain my recent absence from my website goes without saying.
To tie this into my excuses for why the Star Trek Into Darkness review still isn’t posted: I could probably make excuses forever, but it comes down to what I choose to do with my limited available time, and I just haven’t chosen to finish the STID review, despite recurring hopes I would get around to it — and the fact that half of it has been written for nearly two years. Beyond that, I can only offer this explanation: Because it’s already so late, there’s no clock to beat, so I just haven’t made it a priority. You shouldn’t read anything more into it than that.
Anyway. In a little less than a year, I will say goodbye to my 30s. It’s odd how my 30s seemed to go by so quickly. Maybe it was all the change that happened during those years, versus the relative static nature of my 20s. But the thing I’ve been told for a long time, and always suspected to be the case (hence my obsession with the guy in the beer commercial), has turned out to be true — which is that time accelerates as you get older. My 20s seemed to take at least 10 years. But my 30s seemed to take about half that. And I wonder (fear?) whether my 40s may evaporate even faster, especially with young children growing up. I hear from so many people about how you blink, and suddenly your kids are adults. I wonder if that’s true, exaggeration, or a little of both.
Twenty years ago this month, I launched the website that is now Jammer’s Reviews. To write those words are both difficult and easy to fathom. Hard at first to believe it’s been that long, and yet the day I sat in that college computer lab and learned the basics of HTML from a friend over Unix ntalk feels like a lifetime ago. And then I remember sitting in my apartment writing about the fifth anniversary of the website. In my memory, those first five years feel like they took about as long as the 15 years since that moment have. Your memory plays tricks on you. This may especially be true as you mark your life in events rather than years. Paradoxically, the more events there are, the less time that feels has passed. Well, sometimes at least.
When we welcomed our son two months ago, we were in the same hospital where we welcomed our daughter two years earlier. The room, identical, was just down the hall from the one we had last time. It was like being in a time loop. Two years had passed, but it felt like we had just been there. Meanwhile, those two or three days in the hospital seemed to stretch out into their own chapter. Two or three days usually goes by like nothing, except when a major life moment fills your memory and stretches them out into something seemingly much longer.
With the addition to our family, I finally had to acquire a minivan. It is just not feasible fitting two child seats (with children in them!) into the back of your two-door Grand Am. So several weeks ago I put it up for sale. I bought that car — my first new car — on September 11, 2000, less than a couple years out of college, and I’ve driven it ever since. (I remember driving to work on September 11, 2001, thinking how I’d bought the car one year ago that day; needless to say, there was plenty else to think about during the drive home.) Now that car sits in my driveway until someone takes it off my hands. When that happens, I will probably feel a twinge of melancholy, because that will be another chapter closed on my vanishing youth. Before someone buys it, I need to make sure to take it for one last spin while playing Jay-Z’s Vol. 3: Life and Times of S. Carter. That would bring it full circle. Of course, that album is now a digital file on my smartphone and the CD is sitting in my basement collecting dust, but there you have it. Times change, technology changes, life marches on.
A couple years ago when my daughter was born, a fellow 1990s-era Trek critic, David E. Sluss of The Cynic’s Corner, also a father, a few years older than me, emailed me a congratulations and told me to treasure these times. I replied that I would, because, hey, I’ve always been keenly aware of time’s passage. He offered me the quote, “Now will never come again.” I thought it was a perfect sentiment and I could fully relate. But it wasn’t until this moment, thinking back on it and realizing the reference had eluded me, that I bothered to look up where the quote came from. It’s from TNG‘s “The Inner Light.” How apropos. (A commenter on my website a few months back posted an obituary for a David E. Sluss of similar age, thinking it might have been the Cynic, but it turns out it was a different person with the same name; I’m happy to report the Cynic is alive and well.)
Sometimes I try to capture “now” by pressing an imaginary record button in my mind to willfully sear a moment into my memory so I’ll remember it in 30 years. Does it really work? I’m not so sure. I do remember doing this once on the last day of high school, and I do indeed still have a fragment of that memory, but it’s a shadow of the clarity of the moment, as if the memory couldn’t withstand the wear of time. And I’m sure I’ve pressed the record button on many other occasions, only for them to ultimately be lost. Perhaps the permanent recording can’t be willed, and we remember only what stands out naturally.
If this essay has ventured into the realm of kitchen-sink rambling only loosely connected by a common theme, please forgive me. It’s a rare Saturday where I had some time to kill and some things that came to mind, and I didn’t want the 20th anniversary of this endeavor to go unremarked upon. Aside from my one-off for Interstellar a few months back, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted a review in two years. That might be the longest drought in the 20-year history of this website. Such, I guess, is the life of a parent of young children. I’m sure I’ll write again someday; just probably not for a little while. Although I could realistically figure out a schedule to get writing back into my routine, I think my time right now just feels better spent elsewhere, or in indulging in that thing known as “relaxation.” Call it work-life-hobby balance, where the “hobby” part has settled in at somewhere just above zero percent. If you’ve been coming here for 20 years or this is your first time stopping by, I hope you’ll check in from time to time — even if the commenters right now contribute more to the site than I do.
For now, I gotta go. Naptime for my kids is over and my wife is home from the grocery store. I don’t care about the guy in the beer commercial. He’s such a tool.
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