I remember turning 10 years old. The birthday was not significant because I was closer to being a card-carrying, official teenager; or because I received tickets to a show in New York (where I did not yet live); or because I was numerically older than my then-closest friend, who is still 371 days younger than me. It was significant because I was moving from single to double digits.
Ever since, the passage of recognizable chunks of time has not gone unnoticed. I value anniversaries of everything, the firsts of everything, the seasons of everything, with a rather rigorous spin on the data. Most of the interest around these numbers is a repositioning of context (“Five years ago, I was …”), and then consider what has changed. But part of it is about pulling apart the numbers to see what they tell me. Either way, each milestone gets a pretty rigorous evaluation.
Keeping track of time, doing this kind of personal accounting, gives things context; it marks the passing of time not unlike the demarcation school enforced, where time was punctuated by semesters and summer breaks. When you mark time in chunks, you can name it — “it’s fall,” “I’m in my 40s,” we’re in the “aughts.” Shared vocabulary has value because then there can be conversation. Being aware of time allows for both an objectivity and a shared experience that weren’t there before.
What you actively spend time on, and (far more difficult) what you choose not to do, who you choose not to spend time with, and who and what you decide to say no to — what you choose, then — is how you mark time. And that is all there is.
When multi-tasking, speed, and efficiency are valued over leaving the office at 5:30PM, recognizing how time passes is paramount. It’s up to you how you want to punctuate the matter.