— I Keep a Diary
It couldn't have been more than a few years ago, during the early-to-mid-Aughts-heyday of the independent blogger, I brought this little site to life. I did so out of boredom during my time occupying an undeniably cushy but wholly uninteresting job.
I have the urge to call it my "day job," but that would imply I had some other major activity occupying my time. I suppose I did once I began posting because I spent an inordinant amount of time dashing off opinionated missives while also reading and watching movies, TV, books, magazines, and, of course, other sites that could feed my snark, critiques, occasionally thoughtful commentary, but frequently other random nonsense.
However, before I faced the vital (2004) conundrum of Typepad vs. Blogger, I spent the majority of most work-days reading other blogs. For quite a while, I wondered if I should start my own, but on something just sub- of a conscious level, I was terrified that that a) My site wouldn't be as good as theirs and b) nobody would actually visit and read.
At that time, my lengthy blogroll included I Keep a Diary,, Brian Battjer's personal site in which he used photos to guide the stories he shared from his life. Of course, in 2004, the world couldn't imagine Instagram or even an iPhone. As of today, though he has updated his site on a schedule not so different as I have mine, his landing page—featuring the above epigram—remains unchanged from what seems like just yesterday, the day that I wrote "Pilot Post: Day Zero" seemingly just yesterday.
OK, sure. Somewhere in America, the anxious teens waiting to learn whether their complete stops, left turns, and lane changes scored high enough to secure that magic card of freedom bestowed by DMVs everywhere had likely just been conceived when that first post went live, but when "just yesterday" actually means the day I have to start answering "51" instead of "50," 16 years can also feel like "just yesterday."
Cliches exist because they're true, and so while time may not literally fly, the older I get, the faster it moves. Sometimes time moves so fast, and I seem to proportionally produce slower. Take this "Birthday post," for example, which I absolutely intended to publish on my birthday, i.e., yesterday.
And yet, here I am on Sept. 22, still writing, editing, finishing … thinking up "clever" ways to address my tardiness.
That epigram from Brian's landing page grabbed me when I first read it 17+ years ago, and frankly, it's never left. I think about it frequently, even if the triggers that bring it to mine have changed over the years. Now, though my own nostalgia may be rooted in events and actions I have known, too often, those moments have become so distant that they seem like someone else's life; or, even with specific clear memories, I feel like I missed out.
Before I began typing the majority of these words yesterday, I started reading Joyce Carol Oates's novel Blonde, and I ran across this line just a few pages in:
For what is time but others’ expectations of us? That game we can refuse to play.
After reassembling some of the pieces of my brain, I thought, "What marvelous synchronicity?"
Oh, you 365 days of yore, wherefore hath thou gone?
Becoming momentarily literal, take The Day After, for example. Just 12 when this 1983 TV movie aired on ABC, the very idea of it terrified me so much, that even if my parents had let me, I don't think I would have watched it. (Not that I would have admitted such a thing to any of my friends.) The Cold War and the dangers of a nuclear exchange in Reagan's America felt all too real.
That was nearly 40 years ago. I remember much of that time, and yet even as I see my kids afraid of far more innocuous things—the recent Clifford movie proved too much—I find it difficult to connect with my younger self around something very real.
In some ways, I don't find this very surprising. Every day feels shorter than the last … or the one before. The span of time between major life events compresses with each new milestone and year thereafter.
In my mid-20s, two years at the same job—and especially without quick promotions to higher positions—felt interminable. At 51, and unemployed for the majority of my 40s, I nearly fainted reading, "every single person who was alive on September 11, 2001, is now over 21," as my friend and Pen Parentis founder M.M. DeVoe wrote on Medium. That means that more than "just a few years" have passed since my tireless tenure at the 9/11 Memorial for its 10th anniversary opening.
I have also had the odd synchronicity of having my decade delineations occur at times that make it hard to celebrate … or, as has certainly been the case for me, times that provide an easy excuse to avoid celebrating.
- September 11, 2001 was 10 days before my 30th birthday.
- The chaos of those weeks opening the 9/11 Memorial to the public dominated my 40th birthday.
- For my 50th, we weren't quite out of the dangers of a worldwide pandemic.
What the fuck is going to happen when I turn 60?
The question, "How does it feel to turn ….?" changes so much as we age. My son turned six at the end of July. "How does it feel to turn six?" is a fun question.
"How does it feel to turn 16?"
"How does it feel to turn 21?"
"How does it feel to turn 30?"
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but I had something between a panic attack and a nervous breakdown the night before I turned 30, something which at 51 definitely ranks among the most absurd emotional moments of my life. That didn't happen at all at 40. My work life wasn't where I had hoped it would be, but my personal life was finally coming together.
But, "How does it feel to turn 50?" Well, last year, I had to develop a standard response to that question.
"I'm not sure, but I hope that it marks the end of my 25-year mid-life crisis."
That frequently recveived a bit of a chuckle. Naturally, I was trying for a bit of humor. And yet, rolling out another illustrative cliche, there's a grain of truth in every joke. In many, there may even be a whole loaf of bread.
Only in the last few years have I realized how I have lived so much of my life in crisis, at least emotionally. However, too often—arguably, most of the time—I was too unaware. Those feelings were too suppressed. Recognition, identification, … those are great first steps.
Now, when people ask me, "So, how does it feel to be 51?" or "How do you feel about your birthday?" my answer has become," Unfortunately, my thesis about 50 being the end of my mid-life crisis proved incorrect." No way did 50 mark an end, for 51 came along way too fast.
And now, on the day after, the future ahead frequently seems as terrifying as Jason Robards, John Lithgow, and JoBeth Williams struggling to survive a nuclear apocalypse. For what lies ahead but 52? 53? Exponentially more unwanted mailings from AARP?
The only thing of which I'm certain is that I'll find out sooner than I'd like.