Usually when I take a break at work, I go walk around the building and let my brain idle in neutral. I go to the floor in the building that has been virtually abandoned during the pandemic lock-down and where I can walk alone with my thoughts.
Since I have access to incredibly long hallways, I decided to play a little game. I decreed that each of my steps corresponded to a year of time.
So, at the beginning of the long hallway, I took my first step and mentally spoke the year of my birth. My next step was the year after my birth. And so on and so forth. I very quickly walked through my childhood. I just as quickly went all the way through grade school, and past my graduation from high school. In the blink of an eye, I was through college and entering the work force. Throughout these first 24 or so steps, I had only had time to take 3 or 4 breaths.
My first job out of college passed by after a few steps. Then a blur of other jobs, almost one per step. The birth of my child blinked by. Then a very few steps later and my child was through grade school. Through college. Entering the workforce herself.
Things whizzed by. Apartments and houses I’d lived in. Cars I’d had. Trips I’d taken. Cities I’d lived in. People I’d known. But the steps were passing too quickly for me to recall anything more than a faint tingling of a memory, a flash of recognition, a hint of a face.
And then it was 2020 and I stopped.
I looked over my shoulder at the way I’d just come. The beginning of the hallway where I’d started was not so very far away. Four or five dozen meters at most. Slightly less than a minute had passed since I began my counting.
Then I turned back around to face the way I’d been going as I was counting.
There was still a lot of hallway in front of me.
But I knew, realistically, I would not make it to the end of the hallway. I simply did not have enough steps left in me to get me there.
So what was my takeaway from this exercise?
I learned not to count the steps.
Being too aware of the passage of time makes it impossible to enjoy the faces and names and places and incidents that make up those steps. We are too busy counting.
Pay full attention to what’s going on as you go by, for it is gone in an instant.
And stop counting.
Especially the steps left to take.