Here it is already Tuesday – and December! DECEMBER. Oh. Dear. It’s true that ever year gets faster. And it makes logical sense: as you get older, each individual year is proportionately diminished relative to your total age. Imagine how a year must whiz by when you’re 70. 80. It must be a blur much along the lines of that old silver screen trick for denoting the passage of time, desktop calendar pages reeling off as though caught in a vicious gust of wind. December. I can’t believe it.
Traditionally, I’m a bit of a timekeeper. Temporality interests me, and it’s part of the way I make sense of the world and my place in it. I measure myself against dates past and future. By X date, I will have done Y. It’s true, I love a good deadline. And like most people, I also use time as a retrospective measure. On date A, it’ll be B years since I gave up smoking/finished my PhD/started writing my MS. Sometimes the distance between points has revelatory power – soon I’ll have been an ex-smoker longer than I was a smoker. This, as any long-term ex-smoker knows, is a day I look forward to a great deal. Other distances are disappointing, or at least, I have a tendency to judge them and myself in relation to them very harshly. It’s three whole years since I started my MS, over 1,000 days of my life, and that agent who passed on it last month? Entirely indifferent to my efforts. As I said to my writer friends, I think it’s the tired indifference of her email that cuts deepest. She didn’t even care enough to hate it. That’s three years of bloody hard work, and for my trouble, she sent me an electronic yawn.
[Cue hysterical laughter. Like, really, really hysterical laughter.]
You wonder if your time’s been well spent, and I at least wonder about the time still to come. Both are futile endeavours. Ironically, both are a complete and utter waste of time. You can’t go back and you can’t see ahead. But I am a big believer in one’s capacity to alter certain courses, like that slightly daggy motivational sentiment, that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. Now, I have a deep suspicion of motivational sayings and those who espouse them/stick them to their PCs on Post-It notes/send them round to colleagues every morning via the office intranet, but I do think that one says something vaguely along the lines of something I vaguely believe, which is that what I do now, from one moment to the next, can and does affect the road ahead, a road I cannot and never will be able to see until I’m already well and truly on it. I guess in some indeterminate way I have believed this and intuitively acted on it for most of my life. I like putting myself in a position to make decisions. I like – no, love change. I enjoy completing tasks and challenges I set myself within an acceptable timeframe. This preoccupation with efficiency probably explains a lot about me. I’m very motivated to improve my immediate circumstances even when they’re ostensibly well in hand. It’s not impatience or restlessness so much as… curiosity and maybe a slight excess of energy. What can I make of this day, this day that has never been before and shall never be again? What’s it going to be?
So. Here we are. December 2009. The first decade of the new millennium is coming to a close – it’s shocking how quickly these ten years have passed. Ten years ago I was in London, working in a pub and writing a manuscript that will never, ever see the light of day. Ten years later, I’m back home in Sydney, working from home and writing first one manuscript and now another, both of which may meet the same fate as the first. So much – in some areas of life far too much – has happened in between. As in any year, I’m still writing, always writing, but now I write for a living, and for that alone, this past decade – leaving my twenties and now hurtling towards the end of my thirties – has been absolutely worth its weight in minutes. After decades of mud and confusion and madness, I feel like the digger whose pan turns up a small nugget of gold. The true value is never told on the scales, but always in the hunt.