Trying to understand how time moves so quickly is like trying to understand men.
It just doesn’t make sense.
We’re in late May at this point, but I feel like it was January yesterday. On Friday evening I went to an event for a couple of my former students. They’ve been working on projects all year as part of a unique program the school district offers, and Friday night was the night of their big presentations. They are seniors this year, which is really weird to me. I swear they were just tiny insecure freshmen walking into my classroom and not knowing what to expect. Now they are these confident young adults with huge dreams. How did this happen so quickly?
I went a little early to the presentation night so that I could hopefully catch up with some former coworkers and chat with my kids some before they had to get in professionalism mode. I hadn’t been back to the school since the day I walked out the door last June with a rollercoaster of emotions going through me. I remember being scared and excited and sad and happy and confused and anxious and hopeful and a bunch of other things all at the same time.
Walking back into the same school I used to walk in almost every single morning for seven years felt really strange. I still can’t quite believe it’s been almost an entire school year since I’ve been gone. So much can change over that time period, and I felt like an outsider as I walked toward the doors. (I think one thing that made this feeling even stronger was the fact that I tried to enter through a set of side doors near my old classroom, and you have to have a badge to get in there. I don’t have a badge anymore. Thankfully, someone was leaving right as I got to the doors.) I glanced inside my old room, but it looked so different that I had to scurry away quickly. I have too many great memories in there to go down that road.
I’m going to be perfectly honest—I was pretty nervous walking through the halls. I really love my new job, and I haven’t once regretted my decision to leave teaching. Sure, I miss the kids and my coworkers and school at times, but I’ve never been upset about the career change. And for some reason, I was afraid that being back would make me question what I had done. It was really weird, though, because the exact opposite happened—being back made me realize I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
While it was nice to spend time with old friends and old students (seriously, how are they this old already?!), I know my time in that world has passed. It went by quickly, and the time away has flown by, too. I’ll never forget that first day of setting foot in front of a classroom full of high schoolers, and I’ll never forget that first day of stepping off the elevator into the corporate world. They are two entirely different realms—not in a bad way—and I’m glad I’ve gotten to spend time in both.
Thinking about how distant one year had made me feel from a seven-year career reminded me how important each moment we have is. I’m pretty sure the day I hit 30 was the day time decided to start moving at warp speed. I’m sure science or something ridiculous will try to convince me that it is actually impossible for it to move faster, but science and I aren’t always on the same page.
When you’re a little kid, you don’t really notice the time as much because you’re constantly living in the moment and doing what you want to do. You don’t necessarily prioritize the wrong things, because you prioritize what truly matters most to you. You think dessert is more important than your veggies—and sometimes it is. You think that playing outside or making memories with your friends is more important than homework—and it almost always is. You think that what you want is actually what you need—and it just might be. You think that waiting 30 minutes to get back in the pool after eating is ridiculous—and it absolutely is (because it’s a complete waste of time). You think that summer is SO far away—and it isn’t, but you don’t notice because you take life one day at a time. You think that growing up and becoming an adult takes forever—but it doesn’t, so stay innocent as long as you can. You think so many things that are so sensible yet make no sense at all at the exact same time—and it’s hard to imagine your views will ever change.
But that’s the thing about time: It holds so much change.
Maybe time seems to pick up speed as I get older because I sometimes forget to live in the moment and appreciate every second I’m given. Maybe time hasn’t slowed down because I haven’t slowed down. Maybe adults should learn a lot more from kids—we’re the ones who say they grow up so fast, but they don’t notice it because they’re too busy living. Maybe they know more than we think they do. Maybe the things they do aren’t always the responsible things, but perhaps oftentimes they’re the right things to do. Maybe sometimes what we say is a “waste of time” really isn’t a waste at all.
I love some of Pam’s final thoughts in the series finale of The Office. She mentioned that it took her “so long to do so many important things” and offered us a little bit of advice: “Just go after what you want, and act fast because life just isn’t that long.”
Which is why we should slow down and make every second count—which Ferris Bueller even remind us to do.