Thursday, April 10, 2014

More On Time

Can you believe it’s already April 10th?
I know, it’s like, ‘what happened to March?’
This year is flying by. 
It’s crazy. And before you know it it’ll be summer.
Oh, please. I am not even ready for that.
Tell me about it.
Well, it’s almost 5 o'clock, I gotta run.
5 o'clock? Geezus! How’d it get to be 5 already?

***

I’ve written about Time before but it’s been a while. A long time I think.

Time has this way, you know? Time creeps up on us and without any warning. I went for a good long hike with my friend Jim this past Saturday. But my left knee, the one I had surgery on a couple years ago, is still a little stiff.  And Time is to blame for that. After nearly 48 years of Time, it's crept up on me. At least on my knee.

It’s funny how Time creeps up on us, because Time also flies. Time flies too fast and a little faster each year it turns out. We may not say exactly that “time flies” because that is a bit too cliché, but Time does get away from us. I had several things on my to do list yesterday and I just couldn’t get them all done. It was because Time just got away from me.

Now for my kids, who are 11 and 8 years old, they have all the Time in the world. They have so much Time, that they can literally waste Time. And for you literal/figurative cops out there, yes, it is literally true. They toss time around like some billionaire carelessly tossing around money on yachts and women. In fact  and I swear I am not making this up  some days they actually claim they are bored.  They will come up to me and say something like “there’s nothing To Do.”

Nothing To Do? I try my patient best to help them, half wondering if doing so plays right into their mockery. I do confess to pulling a similar stunt on my parents. But that was back when there really was more Time. Now, as we all know, there is less Time. It surprises me that scientists aren’t studying this phenomenon because surely there are significant impacts to our understanding of the universe. I know, from experience, that back in the 1960s and 1970s there was more Time. Now there is less Time. Yes, literally. And at some point in the future, there will be less and less Time until we completely run out of Time. Environmentalists warn us of "peak oil" but what about "peak Time?" Running out of time is far worse than running out of oil. Of course, when I die, I will have completely run out of Time. But for a few things, especially on my To Do list, I have already run out of Time or, that Time has passed.

In Genesis 1, God created everything in 6 days Time. And looking around, I can see that it was, well, kind of a rush job.  Now, I don’t want to offend anyone, and surely there is plenty of awe, wonder, and splendor, but creating Everything had to be a big job. The biggest, I would think. And just look at us humans. Clearly there must have been some corners cut to get this all wrapped up in 6 days. I wonder how it all would be if God took an extra day, or two, to really get us right. I wonder if God thinks, 'next Time I'll spend an extra day or two on those Humans.' Which would be great because then we’d all have an 8 or 9-day week. And I could really use that extra Time.

I better wrap this up. I’ve already spent too much Time on this. And I can’t believe it’s already Thursday. It’s like Wednesday just disappeared!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Editing the Story in My Head

I have this story in my head that I carry around. I use it to explain much of what has happened to me, particularly my relationships: My first, too-young, marriage and it’s too soon divorce, another relationship, then meeting Amy, who died too soon, then meeting Lori and falling in love again. The story in my head explains how the thread of unbroken events goes back to my senior year in high school. It starts with how I wound up at Virginia Tech instead of Penn State.

I wanted to go to a school with an Engineering program since I was told I was good at math and science and should be an engineer. I also wanted to go to a big school to go to football games and to party. I grew up in South Jersey, and from there, back then, the big school with engineering, football, and parties was Penn State. That is where I wanted to go. A good friend of mine, a year older, was at Penn State. I had good grades and SAT scores like my friend and knew I would get in so I planned to go to Penn State.

If you know a little about Penn State you probably know there are multiple campuses around the state. If you apply to the main campus at State College and don’t quite have what it takes, you might be accepted to one of the satellite campuses. After two years at a satellite, if your grades are good enough, you can transfer to State College. Well, that was not an option for me. I had decided that when I am accepted to the main campus in State College, there is where I’d go. The satellite campuses were not an all an option: No football, no big parties. So I applied to Penn State and Rutgers as the in-state safety. And someone mentioned Virginia Tech. Tuition was cheap and I guess it counted as a big engineering school with football and the application was easy, so I applied there too, and waited.

After a couple months, or so, the letters started to come back. Rutgers: Congratulations, you’ve been accepted! Virginia Tech: Congratulations, you’ve been accepted! Penn State: Congratulations you’ve been accepted to our Altoona campus.

Altoona?!?

Sorry, Altoona, I confess to having never visited. And don’t take it personally. I was young and naive.

When I look back on that moment, I can’t even assign a feeling. Was I sad? Angry? I felt rejected, that’s for sure. Defeated. It was quite a letdown. Like getting up the courage to finally ask out that girl and she says, well, “I’m not free that night.”

So, my Dad suggested we take a road trip to Blacksburg, VA and check it out. And we did. And it was okay. Virginia Tech was not my first choice, but they’d take me. They seemed welcoming. The campus seemed nice, though I recall it was a gray and overcast day. There is a reason, I learned, that we’d call it “Bleaksburg” in the winter. Because it can be. I didn’t fall in love with Virginia Tech that day, like some do – those who visit in the spring or fall when campus can be the most wonderful little place in Virginia, if not the east coast. But, that day, my future-college heart was still two states to the north. But what choice did I have? I didn’t want to stay in-state. For some reason I really felt I just had to get out of New Jersey. Had to. And this isn’t some New Jersey joke.  Even though some very good friends of mine were going to Rutgers, I just, somehow had decided I needed a new start. And Penn State was going to be it. Except now it wasn’t.

After the Va Tech campus tour, my dad wrote the $100 housing deposit check for my dorm room and I signed my acceptance. And that was that.

And then what happened next I remember this way: We get home and the phone rings. I pick it up and it’s the Admissions Office at Penn State. There had been an error and about 120 kids had received the wrong letter. I had been selected for the main campus at State College after all and the offer was still good. How about that! My first choice wanted me. It’s like that girl calling me back and saying “guess what? Turns out I’m actually free this Friday!”

Looking back, I would have thought I’d have been excited.  “Really? Wow! What do I do now? I had already accepted somewhere else, but just maybe . . .”

But that is not what I did. No. Without any question on my part I simply told the person on the other end of the phone call from the Admissions Office at Penn State that I had accepted an offer elsewhere. “Thanks anyway,” then I hung-up.

And that, as they say, was that. Here was this major fork in the road and that’s how I went down the one side.

As time went on, I would tell this story about how the fates, or God, or whatever, had conspired to get me to Va Tech; were I struggled to find myself, experimented with drugs, and had difficulties with relationships. I met and fell in love with the woman who would become my first wife. We moved to the Washington D.C. and three years later divorced. And then after another relationship I eventually met, fell in love and married the woman who gave me my two sons. And then 10 years later she died tragically and quickly.

That was nearly 4 years ago and I was thinking of this whole story of my life again as I was going for a run. The narrative of choices I have and those given to me and how my life is where it is right now. I am happy, again, having found new love and new inspiration in my work. And I was thinking about that fateful error in the Penn State admissions office and how the universe had aligned to set me on the trajectory I am on.

And then I stopped. Literally stopped running.

What if that wasn’t the message? Maybe the Universe hadn’t aligned. Maybe the Universe was asking me a question: Are you really sure? What if the message wasn’t that things just happen, but that we sometimes get second chances? It never occurred to me to say to the Admissions Officer, “oh, wow, this is interesting news. You were my first choice but I just accepted somewhere else, so I don’t know what to do. Can I think it over?”

Then I could have talked to my parents, asked what about the $100 deposit and so on. Who knows, maybe I still would have gone to Va Tech, but I never even had that conversation with myself or my parents. I accepted my fate as simply that. Fate. How it is.

Married, divorced, married, widowed, married: I’m a pretty good example of second (and third) chances, at least as it goes with relationships. Yet I have still being carrying around a story in my head about how things happen to me. And now the story that I have carried for nearly 30 years no longer really describes my reality like I thought it did. Maybe the fates, or God, or whatever was trying to teach me a lesson but I couldn’t even hear it back then.

Certainly, there are things that happen to us, but maybe we don’t need to always accept them as first presented. I'm 47 and it's exactly 30 years ago this winter and spring when I was learning of my college fate. And now, 30 years later, I see that maybe I could have wrestled even a little control from the Fates. So now I am thinking of how to re-write the story in my head.

My father, the writer, might say something about how “editing and re-writing” are just part of it all.

Ok then, back to re-writes.