Friday, November 19, 2004

Obligatory Journal Entry, Forced at Gunpoint

I write this after working 12 days in a row, and I am CRANKY. Not only am I forced to work like a slave, shifting gears every other minute, racing about fixing things, reading enough email to choke a goat, doing endless company website updates... but apparently, I am expected to write journal entries for the amusement of others. Figures. 

So, here is my insight, which has been refined over time though trial and error and much consultation. I am actually 7 years younger that everyone thinks I am.
Now, I am not one of those people who is obsessed about appearing younger than my age, nor do I see any reason to lie about my age, or refuse to tell people what it is. I really could care less, and frankly, I'm delighted in the interest. I think it's pretty well established that my goal in life is being paid attention to. And to that end, I was born on December 3rd, 1968. You can find my birthday wishlist at

So, when I say I am 28, it isn't vanity. It's REAL years. I noticed several years ago that although I was the same age as several of my co-workers, I felt much younger and more inexperienced. Why? Well, for one, they had more real life experience of the most obvious kind: they were married with children. Now, I've observed enough, read enough, been told enough, that being married is difficult - requires sacrifice, compromise, etc. Then, having kids requires more of the same, in addition to loss of sleep. So after a while I realized that my peers really were much older than I was, in a very practical sense. 

But how much older? I was fortunate enough to pick some numbers which have been confirmed by the approbation of several of these "married with children" individuals, so I see no reason to question the validity of my random choice:
Married: add 3 years
Children: add 4 years 

So, I told married friends to tack on 3 years to their age. That's your actual maturity. If there were children, I told them to tack on 7. Now, this was not popular with many of them, since their vanity did not enjoy this additional imposed aging. But I remained firm, and despite the blow to their vanity, none truly contested my theory. 

Time passed, and I reached my thirtieth birthday, and promptly sank into deep depression. It wasn't that I was getting older; it was that I was at a major threshold, and anything that points out to me that I am actually living in a real world and not an imaginary fairyland where my car never breaks down and Mr. Right is scheduled to appear at the precise moment I am my most charming, lovely, and unselfconscious so that he might fall madly in love with me, tends to frighten me rather badly. I had much the same reaction at ages 10 and 20. 

This deep depression prompted much self-analysis, and I realized a significant flaw in my REAL years calculations: That at thirty, I was supposed to be married with children, but I wasn't. By thirty, the wedding is supposed to be long past, and at least one child produced. Yet I had done none of this, while the MAJORITY of my friends had. So, instead of the Smug Marrieds being 7 years older than I, in reality, I was 7 years younger than them! They were right on schedule - I was not. Upon explaining this difference to several of my test subjects, I was much cheered by their unanimous agreement with my New and Improved Theory. 

So, as a 28 year old, going on my 29th birthday, what does this say? Not a great deal. It's just a clever way of processing a major difference between Singletons and Smug Marrieds, it is a fail-proof conversation starter, and it makes me seem smart and funny which to a single woman is almost as good as looking thin and beautiful. Years from now, as my married sisters enter their 13th and their 17th year of getting up before 9am on a Saturday to feed their families breakfast, while I sleep in past 10 with the help of a couple of Benadryl after a night out with my friends, it will surely be a comfort to them (as they wearily wonder if they will ever get to sleep more than 7 hours ever again on this earth,) that I am an immature baby in comparison to their rich and full lives. 

I live to validate other people. It's just one of the ways I serve.
[Are you happy now, Mike in MI?]

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Visualizing Time

As a former History major, I tend to look at things from a... historical perspective, I suppose. That's probably common and obvious. But recently I realized that I look at history, at months and years and centuries, from a VISUAL perspective. For me, time goes in different directions, turns corners, runs perpendicular or parallel (depending on the century) and in the course of a year, goes in a circle.
Why do I envision time at different geometric points? Probably due to subconscious memories of elementary school bulletin board displays, or textbook timeline charts. Some "chunks" of time are set apart with a greater focus on individual years, while others are a long line with nothing to distinguish them.
This is going to take some drawing, and I'm a lousy artist. Bear with me. I also don't want to mark specific events on the line, as it will become an exercise in "looking things up" that I remember imperfectly.
The B.C. years emerge from a misty patch to my right - they go back endlessly past some invisible horizon, but from about the time of Moses is when I can see the beginning of the line. They go in a straight line to the left, until 60 BC, when they break left and go straight down until the BC/AD turnover, where they resume their journey to the left. Upon reaching AD 30-ish, the line turns right and goes straight up through 300 AD, when it breaks left again and continues on in an unbroken line until the Renaissance.
In the year 1400, time begins to fold back and forth upon itself; still continuing from right to left, but starting in the year 01, going straight up to the year 00, and then turning left and skipping back to the starting point of 01, to repeat the upward journey until the year 1800.
In 1800 time takes the left turn, but instead of skipping back down to the 01 starting point, it takes a hairpin turn and time starts running the other direction, from top to bottom. At 1900, time turns right, and skips back up to the "top of the page" and starts running downwards. Only now the line becomes thicker, and as you follow it along, the individual years stand out, and each one has an actual visual significance. It's like zooming in on a DNA strand, and starting to see the details of each individual dot. You realize that each year within the line is actually an oval, which loops from top left down until June-July, and then loops back up on the right to make the oval. Look closer, and each month is, of course, a calendar page, a square grid strung one after the other like beads on a necklace.
Upon reaching 2000, the line becomes less certain - you can't quite figure out which direction it is going, or plans to go. Currently, it is still continuing on from right to left, but it has made no turns - it is the same unbent line since 1900. I suppose that because this is the part of the line that I am personally living in, I can't make it bend any direction other than the inevitable drive to the West/Left. Give me a few more years and maybe I will be able to see if it will bend.
I suppose psychological gender studies that look into this sort of thing might make much of the fact that individual years are circular (feminine), while the direction of centuries is in straight lines (masculine). Maybe because women instinctively count the months for their menstrual cycle, or the cycle of yearly rebirth and death is more apparent to women; and the straight lines of history are more about time as visualized by the men who made most of it. I have a healthy curiosity of gender differences, but ultimately all I can say is that my visualization of time has been the slow development of education, books, culture and my perception of the years I have actually inhabited time.
Now... it's your turn! How do you see time? I'd love to hear about it.