Today is the tenth anniversary of my arrival here in Greece. Where has the decade gone?
(Why do we ask where time goes? Has something gone, while other things remain? Why do we think of time as passing? When we look around at what remains the same and think about what has changed, we must, I suppose, think that something has left — all those things that don’t exist any more — and we say that they have gone somewhere. To where time goes.)
It feels like only four or five years ago. But, really, what difference is there between five and ten years? In the long run, nothing. But in one’s life it makes a big difference, when you consider that life is too short. At the end of it, you would be glad to have another five. I wish I could go back five years and do some things differently, now that I’ve learned from my mistakes, or some of my mistakes. And yet in another twenty years I will look back at when I first came to Greece, first moved into this pokey little apartment, where so many important things happened to me, and where I was so happy, and I will say, “Was that really thirty years ago? It only feels like five.”
Once, years ago in Canada, I was discussing such things with G., an old friend. I wondered about how time seemed to be passing more quickly than it used to, and he said that, as far as how we perceive time is concerned, the amount that seems to pass until we reach nineteen seems equal to the rest of our life. In other words, that time speeds up in such a way that the rest of your life seems to be nothing more than another nineteen years.
Six of my first twelve months here were spent in the army. Roughly 180 days. It seemed like such a long time, a big chunk of my life. It was a formative experience, I know, but at the same time it’s only a dim, brief memory. As soldiers approached the day of their discharge and return to freedom, they would count down: “Seventy-eight and today!” “Forty-six and today!” Someone once told me, “Here in the army, the hours and days crawl by; the weeks and months fly past.”
So do the years, and not just in the army.