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Published: Wednesday, 12/29/2010

Fleeting time insists we make good use of it

They say time flies as one gets older. Being eternally young, I wouldn't know. Aging doesn't apply to graying baby boomers.

Denial makes it easier to cope with time going faster than we are. We can't begin to catch up. So we pretend to be unaffected by the passing seasons as a generation of Peter Pan wannabes.

But time whisks along anyway, never looking back. It's full-speed ahead, whether you're on board or not.

Look at how the years of the once-heralded new millennium are flipping by like pages of a book in the wind. We made a big deal when 2000 arrived. Remember?

We held our breath as the computerized world adjusted. We dreamed about the grand evolution that lay ahead.

Now we're rushing headlong into 2011 without a second thought. The hands on the clock tick away another year and we're already thinking about the next one.

Basically, we're marking time until the presidential election in 2012, or the promised U.S. departure from Afghanistan in 2014, or some other significant 20-something year coming up.

We're in a hurry to get there. Always. The world is on permanent fast-forward. A day is a 24-hour blink. Life is filled to capacity. Time vanishes in a flurry of demands, dates, deadlines.

No one has a millisecond to reflect on how quickly 2010 tore through its 12-month stay. We've already posted new 2011 calendars, updated our checks, planned schedules, projects, vacations, weddings, graduations, and anniversaries.

Our weeks fold into months that zoom at warped speed to New Year's Eve. Every year, we hit Dec. 31 faster than the year before.

And so it goes, until suddenly you realize your new millennium baby is turning 11 in a few weeks and you have no idea where the years went. Seriously, where'd they go?

It's as though I've been standing still all this time - a common boomer fantasy - and someone pulled a fast one on me with my children. A strange sense of urgency grips you when your kids grow up overnight.

You want time to stop. Now. It's going way too quicly to let the bittersweet passing of youth even begin to sink in.

Yet time slows for no one. And to everyone past a certain age, across cultures, across time, all over the world, it moves at an ever astonishing clip.

It's the acceleration of time every advancing year that knocks the unsuspecting on their heels. Some suggest the reason that time sprints away from us as we get older is because much of the novelty of everyday life has worn off.

The theory is that the newness of human experiences, such as the first kiss that seems to suspend time, no longer have the same magic for those with more birthdays than they care to count. So the events and milestones in their lives tend to blur past them at a dizzying pace.

Been there, done that. What's left? With time running out, why not try embracing whatever is new and precious in experiences that could hook even Peter Pan?

Getting older may make time fly, but it also imparts a liberty to let go, push the envelope, not hold back. And when you have less time remaining on your personal clock than you did a decade or two ago, you also have limited patience with people who would waste it.

Anyone who kills time with the trivial, insignificant, and unimportant becomes increasingly insufferable. It is criminal how much valuable time is squandered in meaningless blather from home to the halls of power in Washington.

A community task force that talks a local problem to death without resolution is not much different than clueless partisans consumed by political sport and little else on Capitol Hill. Dawdling may not matter to those who act as though they have plenty of time on their hands.

But most of us are not so presumptuous. If we can't stop the minutes and hours that tick the future closer, at least we can stop throwing away the moment, the era, the generation we have.

At least we can stop taking our own sweet time to fix what we can for those growing up way too fast. As 2011 approaches, we can stop denying and start making the time of our lives more than memorable.

Marilou Johanek is a Blade commentary writer.

Contact her at: mjohanek@theblade.com



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