I spent yesterday in DC getting a new passport.
I vividly remember standing in line at my college town’s post office waiting to submit my passport renewal paperwork ten years ago. Ten. Years. Ago. It was finals week in December. I rolled out of bed and threw on a t-shirt and a fleece. As I waited to be called to the counter I remember thinking about how old I would be when that passport expired – almost 30 (I know, I know). I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up and as I thought about the decade that passport would carry me through everything looked so fuzzy. I wasn’t sure where I’d live or where I’d work – heck, I wasn’t even sure I would be able to find a job when I graduated.
I was about the travel to Africa for the first time. On Monday, I leave for Madagascar.
Ann Lamott poses this question: “Where is meaning in the meteoric passage of time, the speed in which our lives are spent?”
My instagram feed has been inundated with images of children boarding school buses and captions decrying the speed at which babies have grown up. There are efforts to soak in the last moments of summer and there are efforts to embrace the changing seasons. (Inaugural pumpkin spice latte, anyone?) It seems that we are collectively asking, “where did the summer go?” or maybe even “where has this year gone?”.
To be honest, I’ve found it a bit irritating – relatable, but irritating. I mean, come on people, let’s come to terms with it. The seasons are changing; it is September. Then today, I found myself asking a similar question: “where did the last decade go?”.
And that’s where Lamott’s words started to resonate. We can’t stop time, but I wonder if we can’t slow down it’s meteoric passage to a gentler calendar page turn.
After yoga on Monday night, I rolled up my mat and walked outside to my car. I said goodnight to a friend, then looked down at my phone and noticed I had missed three calls. My phone started to ring again and at that point I realized I had mistakenly taken my husbands keys leaving him stranded at the house. An urgent work email came in from a different time zone. I started my car and music came on. I scrolled through my instagram feed, liked a few images, and then I checked my personal email. I put the car in reverse and as I drove home to rescue my stranded husband I thought about how many things I had given my attention to in the preceding three minutes. At least seven. In three minutes
My least favorite part of Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is when he describes the space between a stimulus and a response – a space that we control. How inconvenient. I find it much easier to be reactive than to give a careful, considered response to a given stimulus. Covey says, “quality of life depends on what happens in the space between stimulus and response.”
Also, I need to consider the fact that choosing not to respond is a response. If I chose to respond less, I wonder if my life might feel a little less frantic. I wonder if the passage of time might slow a bit. I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out. I mean, isn’t that part of the reason why we love to run? The solitude, the singular and intentional pursuit of something worthwhile?
I think it may be time for me to do a bit of editing — less mindless responses, more intentional action. It’s time to own the space between stimulus and response. Because the next time I go to get my passport renewed, I want to make sure I’m not just standing in line dumbfounded about how fast time flew by. I want to be flipping through that old passport’s pages reminiscing about a hell of a good decade.