They say time flies when you're having fun, and it's true.
When you're having fun you're in the moment, not upon it. You're experiencing the experience, not wishing you weren't, as is so often the case when life feels like a drag.
When you're in the moment, you're letting each experience fully happen, not making continual judgements about what's right and wrong or projecting past hurt onto future outcomes.
But just as time flies in the moment, time flies in the macro too.
Is it just me, or do we all seem to mutter to ourselves each Christmas "just where has that year gone!?". We're left looking at the hour glass wondering how the sands of time have passed through as we desperately try to stop them, to slow life down, to stop the frenzied rush to the later life, older life, and ultimately, loss and death.
Even thinking about this now brings an increased sense of anxiety within me. Having turned 31 recently, I'm beginning to become aware of what the olds have been telling us for a while, "I still feel like I'm in my early twenties" and the old adage that "time passes faster the older you get".
Those older than me may roll their eyes at this point, "little does he know", but in my own small sense I've experienced that myself.
The yearly repetition of Christmas and New Year has had this sense of a bad dream, one looping, faster and faster, simply here to remind me that time is escaping, I'm wasting my life and I better get my shit together before another passes me by.
I've tried and I am trying to fight against this. Not against the reality that time will pass, that I will grow older, and loss and death are inevitable, but to fight against the passivity of it all, against the emptiness, the sense that nothing really much happened that year, the sense of waste.
For the past few years I've built a habit of spending 30 seconds before bed reflecting on the day, and thinking of at least three things I'm thankful for from it. Even on the harder days it helps bring the perspective that I am blessed and helps me to take stock of what has just passed rather than letting it quietly slip away into the void.
More recently I've been building (and rebuilding) my own daily habit app. I've expanded it from logging my workouts and writing habits to include simple mood tracking and journalling. I've tried to capture more of what each day has looked like, in the hope that in a similar way to how taking notes in lectures helps you retain more of the content, these daily etchings would help me retain more of my experience.
I've tried to be proactive with self improvement too, attempting to make good "votes for a healthy future Fred", as James Clear would say. I could count how many times I went to the gym up until my mid twenties on one hand, I've built a decent workout habit since then.
And this past week I finally took the next step, starting therapy, not due to some desperate crisis, but rather due to the feeling that if the outer is worth consistent efforts to maintain, how much more the inner? One session in and I'm already thinking this could be a game changer.
But most of all, I'm slowly coming to realise that this nagging feeling of anxiety that rears its head in my life as each year comes and goes, isn't primarily fixed by remembering more of it, or making minor tweaks each year.
It's a signal from me to me, to not let life be lived with regrets.
When we say "oh goodness where did the time go?", what we're really saying is "ahh shit, did I really waste another year?".
The passing of the years is only anxiety inducing if when we look back upon them we realise we've wasted them, that we regret the way we lived and wish we could have our chance over again.
The compounding of waste upon waste bringing both regrets looking back and fears looking ahead. "Will I ever get my shit together?".
Remove those regrets and the anxiety fades too, you're left looking back on a life well lived.
And sure, you might be a little sad that some beautiful chapters have come and gone and you may wish to go back and live some of the highlight reel once more, but that anxiety will be strangely absent, replaced by a sense of pleasant nostalgia and gratitude for what was, and in turn what is.
As I slowly make peace that the promise of youth that we'll never grow old is a fairytale, I'm beginning to understand what a life well lived looks like.
Minimise regrets, forgive yourself quickly, and give life your best shot regardless of what others will think of you.
I'm only at the start of this process, but hopefully this year, this Christmas, won't be quite so anxiety inducing as the last.