Thursday, November 6, 2008

Milestone Ahead - by, Christopher

In looking for a topic to post about tonight, I am struck by the number of posts we have racked up over the last days, weeks and months.

This blog is number 193, if you can believe that. I certainly can't.

I think in some ways a large portion of my active consciousness is still standing in line at the DFW airport with a preposterous amount of luggage strewn around me. I am here in Turkey and I am not.

But the part of me that is in Turkey stands in awe for a different reason. It simply will never believe that I haven't been here for ages and ages. Thinking back to the day that I arrived here is a bit like remembering my high school graduation. I can summon hazy images and little else.

So time is elastic, which is nothing new. But perhaps I didn't know quite how elastic it is. My new perspective on time makes me remember when I was in elementary school and adults would tell me to "enjoy your time being young" and "make it last."

I remember thinking, "Make it last, right. Yesterday I sat through an hour of my teacher banging on about how people named different rocks. Igneous and sedimentary and metamorphic and on and on. Apparently you adults have got a lot of time on your hands, roaming the countryside doling out kooky names to boulders."

But I was wrong. And they were wrong, too. At least in the way they advised me. What they should have said was, "Imagine what it would be like if you woke up one morning and you talked to one or two people for ten minutes, you ate some food, you went to the bathroom and then plopped right back down on the bed to go back to sleep for the night. That's what time will feel like when you're my age."

And I may have been able to imagine that but I still wouldn't have got the point. I would have been too entranced in the details, wondering what the ten minute conversation was about and who it was with. Wondering if I ate waffles for my one meal.

Because to my young self (or anybody's) every little mundane detail was still so new and interesting. Almost nothing was routine or ordinary and the things I thought were routine and ordinary then were so very far from how routine and ordinary they have become. It's newness, novelty, uncertainty that activates our mind. As a child it is as plentiful in our daily lives as the air we breathe.

And our perception of time slows down in response. We are interested, involved, engaged. And time stretches out into an impossible infinity. A week for me as a child compares to about a month as an almost-thirty-year-old.

But since I have turned my life on it's head, my perception of time in Turkey has slowed down exponentially. The weeks here are full of excitement, challenge and newness. Newness is everywhere! And my perception of time has adjusted to compensate. The weeks here are sometimes exciting adventures, sometimes arduous trials, but always long. Some weeks in Turkey feel like a month back home.

And that is great. And it is tough. And it is important. And it is probably for a limited time only.

Because if Sarah and I ever came back here to visit our old school or our old friends, the emphasis would be on old. By then very little would be novel or challenging about the visit. And if it isn't new, the mind just skims the surface and relies on experience and instinct to negotiate the landscape. And time speeds on uncontested.

It's been said that time flies when you're having fun, and for fun that involves putting your head into park and idling the motor while the tv rattles on, I agree completely. I would also add that time flies when you're comfortable. And this is the scenario I think most of us find ourselves in as adults. In a comfortable place where we pretty much know what to expect each day.

Hey, I'm not knocking it. There are days and nights over here when I miss my comfortable cocoon I had back home.

But I don't miss that feeling I used to get when I would wake up for work on Friday and think, "I can't believe another week is already almost over. Where did the time go?"

Well, I figured out where the time went. It was waiting patiently for me to find it, accumulating in delicious, thick chunks in a strange apartment in a distant country.

1 comment:

  1. Chris, thanks for the reminder that time is precious, even when we think it's ordinary.

    Keep blogging...we're living vicariously...from our mundane existence here in the US!

    Sarah's Mom #2