One year. A standard unit of time – 12 months; 52 weeks; 365 days. It doesn’t change a great deal, bar the gradual drift that passes unacknowledged for three years and is then clawed back on that leap year bonus day.
Yet it strikes me that what is a fairly mundane unit of historical accounting can be met with such contrasting expectations or anticipation as we progress through the seasons of our lives. Let me therefore present a lifetime chronology in terms of how we may view the impending ‘one year…’
Age 3: time has no real concept outside of the present. The forthcoming year utilises precious little emotional or intellectual energy as it simply does not exit. I am hungry. I want to play in the garden. That boy is playing with the digger I want to play with. Simple.
Age 9: a year at this stage appears to be an incomprehensible wilderness, an inaccessible expanse of time. What’s it like being eight? Absolutely no idea. It was so long ago when I was as babyish as an eight year old. Did you know that some of them still believe in Father Christmas?! I can’t wait to be 10, to be in double figures like those bigger boys in year 6. I wonder what it’s like to be 10, to be that grown up?
Age 13: anxiety. One year = 365 days of angst, primarily in the increasing deficit in height noticed by myself compared to the bigger boys who have hair on their legs and clearly more than dabble with a razor. When will the hormones kick into action? I don’t ask for much, but this time next year I must have at least 5 black hairs on my upper lip and be taller than my mum.
Age 17: looking forward to the coming year sees one word stamped all over it: FREEDOM! With an increasingly feverish impatience, I look forward to shackles of school, lifts by mum and alcohol licensing being broken off as I sprint towards the green pastures of university. The only thing that stands in my way is the (thankfully shrinking) barrier of time. Only 364 days and 23 hours to go…
Age 25: progress. Onwards and upwards. Time is money. The markets never sleep, so why should I? One year means promotion which means bonus which means deposit on a house. Time is an onwardly upward slope. Thank goodness I’m invincible.
Age 38: One year? I don’t even have time to think about now, let alone the future. Drop the kids off, work, afternoon clubs, dinner on the table. Hang on, which school will they go to when they finish primary next year? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, they might end up in the local dive. How long do we have to move catchment areas? One year?
Age 59: a slow uphill walk towards the horizon of retirement, with the promise of pottering in the vegetable patch. A year is an increasingly drawn out stretch which can’t come soon enough. For some reason my wife fails to approach it with such anticipation.
Age 85: a period of long-sightedness, the forthcoming year uncertain, the preceding year a black hole, twenty-five years ago clear as crystal. The seconds of the year are clearly demarcated by the tick-tick-tick in my living room. Will I be here next year? Was I here last year? It’s all such a muddle. What a joyful summer it was in’99. Sorry who are you?
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” Isaiah 40:6-8