I don’t really notice the passing of time much. I somehow lost the month I was in the hospital, so I keep thinking that it’s May, not June. Summer caught me by surprise.
The recent flurry of graduation photos posted by friends on social media also caught me off-guard. My friends’ kids posed for kindergarten, middle school and even high school graduation pictures.
Then someone asked about my 20-year high school reunion next year. Didn’t I just attend the 10-year reunion? Didn’t I just graduate?
Everything feels like it happened not that long ago.
Part of this is because I have a good memory, or so I’m told. It’s not that I’m particularly good about recalling useful information like trivia answers, deadlines or where I put my phone. It only seems as if I have a good memory, because I can recall events, stories and random bits of information from years ago—a conversation I had with someone in third grade about my Shamu eraser or the night an intoxicated man pulled his classic car into the parking lot where some high school friends and I were hanging out and tried to convince us to drive him home.
It’s sometimes a bit lonely when you’re the only one who remembers something, especially when you’re speaking to someone who is part of your old story. “Really? I don’t remember that,” the other person will say, slightly suspicious.
I try not to respond with the details that I remember, because it makes me sound creepy. But I sometimes find myself saying things like, “Yes, you were wearing your blue Converse for the first time and eating Twizzlers. It was the day before our biology final. Are you sure you don’t remember this?”
I’ve never had a firm grasp of time. Anyone who’s ever waited for me could tell you that. My boyfriend says I have no concept of time—usually while he’s exasperated, standing by our apartment door, waiting for me.
My poor mother used to arrive to places early before my own arrival—an entire month before I was due. She says my birth was the first and last time I was ever early for anything.
Now that I’m older, I am more punctual, but I tend to arrive right on time, never early. I hate waiting. And yes, I feel terrible about making people wait for me, but that’s mostly in the past.
Lately, I’ve been more acutely aware of time, because the past year and a half has been mostly full of waiting. I waited six months for the ABVD chemo to be over, three months for the clinical trial to finish, and a month or so for two rounds of ICE chemotherapy to pass and the weeks it took to complete the stem cell collection. The month in the hospital went by fairly quickly, save for the final week, but sometimes I would look at the clock in my room and watch the seconds pass.
Now, I’m waiting until mid August for my immune system to recover from the stem cell transplant enough to resume some sort of normal. Of course, I also wait for the scan, which could mean more cancer and waiting. After I recover from the transplant, if I get clear scans, I’d like to stretch the time out in between them while I enjoy myself because I’m terrified the cancer will come back, especially since it’s been so reluctant to leave.
For the first time since I was a kid, I’ve wanted time to pass quickly. The good news for me is that when you’re a child, a year seems like an eternity, whereas time seems to accelerate the older you get. My boyfriend says that time seems to speed up because the years become smaller percentages of your life. When you’re 5, a year is one-fifth of your life, but by the time you’re in your mid-30s, a year goes by pretty fast.
My tenuous grasp on time seemed to have loosened even more now that it’s sped up. This makes some people feel old, but I don’t really ever feel old. I’m just amazed that so much time has passed—without feeling as if I’ve aged very much.
I suspect I might just be immature. When there’s a serious situation, I still feel like I need to find an adult, before I remember that I am one. (That doesn’t stop me from looking for another, more responsible adult to handle the situation.)
Aside from the assumption that I might be mature enough to handle important things, I don’t mind getting older, really. I’m still years away from the aches and pains of old age. The only other main downside is that I’m wise enough to be embarrassed of my younger self. I probably can cringe at the person I was yesterday. I know the wisdom that comes with age is hard-won, but I could do without the flash of wince-worthy moments from my past—like worrying I was old at 23 or 25.
I graduated from college just shy of my 21st birthday, so as an employed college graduate, I felt old before my time hanging out with my friends who were still in college or on campus. (I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole collegiate thing anyway, so I was happy to be out of school as fast as I could.)
In my 20s, I worried about getting old. I checked for wrinkles. I actually haven’t worried about getting old since I turned 28. Turning 28 really bothered me. While other people balk at milestone birthdays like 30 or 40 or 50, turning 28 made me inexplicably sad. I saw it as some turning point—I was no longer a kid. I’d have to get it together. At that point in my life, I had a career and a house, but I mourned the loss of my youth. I thought I should feel more mature.
A lot of rock stars die at 27. It seems to be a cut-off point for either being forever young (and, unfortunately, dead) or going on with the rest of your life and growing up.
Since my 28th birthday, I’ve never felt old. I’m glad I experienced the Smurfs, telephones with cords, black-and-orange-screen computers before the internet, the ’90s (giant coffee cups, grunge, etc.). I still miss VCRs and I sometimes try to rewind DVDs like they’re VHS tapes. When I see those lists about what “kids these days” won’t know, I don’t feel old; I’m just happy to experience the time that I did.
I also live in a blissful lack of self-awareness when it comes to knowing what’s cool. When I stop doing something, I assume it’s not cool anymore. For example, I assume people don’t go to clubs anymore, because I don’t.
I’m also surprised when other people see me as older. A few years ago, I took a bus back to Ohio, and during a rest stop break, a man came up to me while I was in line and said, “Young lady, you dropped your smile.” I’d forgotten how friendly Midwesterners can be.
Smiling, I got back on the bus, and a college student asked to use my phone. She called her mom. I overheard her say that she borrowed a phone from “a nice lady.”
Lady? It took on a different meaning than it had only minutes earlier. I nearly interrupted her and said, “I think you mean young lady.”
Since I got all the feeling old part of my life over in my 20s, with no other approaching birthdays bother me, it’s been smooth sailing. I love celebrating my birthday. In a way, I see it as a celebration of youth. After all, I’ll never be any younger than I am on that day. The numbers are just going to keep going up.
My upcoming birthdays are going to be even better, as I hope to celebrate many more to come. National Cancer Survivors Day was last week. I still don’t consider myself a cancer survivor, since I’m not sure if the stem cell transplant got me into remission. I read recently that by 2024, there will be almost 19 million cancer survivors. I hope to be among them. I look forward to the opportunity to get old, and maybe even becoming a nice old lady.