This past Sunday marked my 17th year on this planet. As with any birthday, I went through the day with a sense of excitement, relishing the thrill that comes with being a year older than you were the day before. But this time, the experience was mixed with a more wistful feeling, one that bordered upon sentimentality.
While I’m thrilled to reach the possibilities and opportunities each new year brings, it gets harder and harder to shake the nostalgia that grows with each passing birthday. After all, I’m less than 365 days from being able to vote. That’s not a lot of time.
When I was younger, one of the biggest grievances I had with the world was how long everything seemed to take. As a child, I was convinced that my life was progressing in slow motion, and I’d despair at the thought of having to endure another ten years in my parents’ house. I wanted nothing more than to grow up and to do so as quickly as possible.
Now, a few years later, I stand at the brink of adulthood, only a year away from the freedom and responsibility that 18 will bring. It’s amazing how quickly someone changes their mind. Looking back, I marvel at the possibility that I could have ever thought a year was a long time; this is my third year in high school, but it feels like just yesterday I was a freshman.
Aging is a marvelous thing. Most people my age don’t realize the full magnitude of the phenomenon. I’m fortunate enough to have a counterpoint in the form of my brother, Leo. He’s five years old, and, as he will tell anyone that will listen, is fifty days into kindergarten. He’s also constantly complaining to our mom about the things I can do that he can’t. Like most kids his age, Leo can’t wait to grow up.
Leo and I are just eleven years apart. When I was his age, I was of the same mindset. But in that time period, I’ve done a nearly-180-degree turn. Upon celebrating my seventeenth birthday, I was no longer thinking about how excited I was to be but one year away from being legal. It may be way too early to be this sentimental, but crossing the threshold into my penultimate year of childhood, all I can think of is the past. Where have the years gone? What did I do over the past seventeen years? And what am I going to do when I become an adult?
We spend much of our youth begging time to move along faster, yet as we near adulthood, we start to think back upon childhood. This phenomenon isn’t restricted to aging; with any experience that lasts for a significant period of time, people often think that they’re in the wrong place in time. When they’re in the present, their minds are in the future. And when they get to the future, they can’t help but think of the past.
But maybe there’s a simple message behind this paradox, a way to truly live life to the fullest: enjoy the present the best you can. Cherish the moments you’re living in, instead of yearning for them from the past or longing for them in the future.
Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.