My partner came to pick me up from work the other day. I was keeping an eye out when the car rolled up as my machine was near the end of its 35 minute file. About two minutes later, I turned the noisy part off and opened the door. My son immediately inquired what took me so long!
I can vaguely remember being a kid that age. A full day seemed like months sometimes, depending on circumstances. Shoot, a lot of times, there’s a whole going peacefully to sleep and waking up again in a single day!
I suppose kids mark time from one weekend to the next and one vacation to the next. Even the most notable events begin and end within days, and entire chapters of life lie within a single year.
This feeling lasted well into my 20’s. The military life is one of constant relocation, and four years felt like a whole novel worth of adventures already. After that came more travel until throwing a dart brought me to Portland. It took very little time for me to remember the reason for my return to the States and begin the longest effort of my life.
I began my studies in the summer of 2010. My son was born while I poured my efforts into physics and calculus. I restored a Honda cafe racer through a compressed summer term of physics and chemistry. My marriage began to crumble while The History of Energy almost buried me in The Prize. I had to drop tech writing in winter term to get through a drunken fight followed by weeks of tense separation. An internship at Intel marked the definite end of my marriage as I bombed electromechanics in another summer term. I kept focus into my junior year despite the odds. I filed and was kicked out of my apartment during the Fall term, though electrochem kept me excited for school. My tooth broke that thanksgiving and I suffered catastrophic depression that Christmas entirely alone. Winter term came, my case was set back, and I got a double root canal. My partner in power electronics bailed on me, and I presented a project that didn’t even come close to operational. I spent half of that spring break flying to Wisconsin to drive my sister in a Uhaul van to Albuquerque, then flew back to get my son just in the nick of time. I spent the other half of spring break disposing of a felonious amount (over 50 gal per adult) of my father’s alcohol and writing him a letter telling him never to speak to me again. Spring term was thankfully forgiving as my court case landed right on finals week. I had a breakdown in front of my hydrogen economy class giving my final presentation after standing in front of the judge that same morning. That summer term saw the worst of the recession, and I could only piece together a couple classes. One was an elective on logic, and I discovered some profound truths about life reading The Undercover Philosopher. Without an internship, summer job, or the usual funds for full time school, I began selling off everything I could. I think of Major Payne saying, “Tomorrow ladies, we gon’ start the hard stuff!” when I think of my senior year. I looked for internships, tried to stave off the ongoing bickering, paid child support, and finally accepted that C’s do get degrees as I faced my last thermal classes. Winter term, I moved out of the 3 bedroom shell of my former home into the cheapest, cock roach ridden shoe box in town as I aggressively took on 18 credits. In spring term of my senior year, I finally ran out of classes to keep me in a full time schedule. My partner in electronics 3 fell off the radar and left me to do something with his idea of a device. In the end, it didn’t work due to a cold solder joint, but it did get me a job running solder machines at Solar World. With a barely sufficient income, I stuck with the grave shifts while attempting to seal up my education with my senior sequence and senior project. I finally gave up the ghost after spring 2015, and the story ends in $300 per month in student loan bills.
Whew! I mean, that was a lot. In the end, I spent four solid years and a bit just for that one thing. My partner and I are quietly celebrating some recent victories, and it sort of astounds me to realize that it has already been years in the developing.
A decade or two from now, I imagine looking back and thinking in eras. Some time in the Corps here, 5 years of school there, the three legged sack race of life raising kids….
I wonder… does time seem to go faster as we age because of the sheer time we’ve been alive or because the sagas of our lives span more time?