They say that as you age, time slips by: days become weeks, and months, and years. In the blink of an eye the leaves change, the snow melts, and the trees bud, relentless in their stride. To a child, each birthday is an eternity away, a distant milestone to be chased for cake; to an adult, birthdays hang like a millstone, a weight tainted by too many candles. Grown-ups move like molasses to the youthful view, stuck in a rut, miming their meager dreams. The future looms, while the present flashes ecstatic in the pan. The dripping sand seems ever out of hand, and shovels don’t come big enough to matter.

I still remember nap time. They’d turn out the lights, unroll the mats in lines. Then they’d read something soothing—or play Beethoven, the solemn strains soft enough to rest your head, a belly full of crackers and crust-free sandwiches. There were no cares beyond the crayon colors, or who was next to tend the plastic kitchen. We had our roles—firemen, princesses, astronauts, presidents; I used to be an architect. My towers triumphed the toddler skyline, balanced stacks of sanded maple, sticks and scraps to craft palatial playroom fixtures. I’d tear my buildings down, start from the ground up—rearrange the broken bits in strange new cityscapes or towns. My only limit was my mind, and I refused to let my boundaries be defined. But time kept moving. I ditched the stroller, the sippy cup; I grew up fast like they always do.

I still remember junior high. I tossed my hard hat, my steel-toed boots, and grabbed binoculars instead. I charted the scene, machete in hand, explorer extraordinaire. I cut my way through public jungles, dodging beasts from broken homes who bared their teeth for fear of caring. The halls were long, with lockers bolted row by row like undergrowth. The world was strange and unfamiliar, and there I wandered sans a proper map. I swam away from open ocean waters, dove within myself; I learned to hold my breath and look inside to find a source of strength. But time kept moving. Puberty reared its ugly head, and I discovered just how pain can lead to growth.

I still remember senior year. I stowed my sword and came across a pen. I took the hidden corked-up bottle, popped the precious cap and dipped my quill. I salved the scars with wrung-out words, hung to dry on lines behind my eyes. I let out a hacking cough and found my voice, and so began to sing: each line of prose a melody, and stanzas made of harmony. As I conducted and composed, I shed the stress of tests and cliques; I shunned the looming future, bent on peddling the great unknown. I sung until my hands were numb, and heard my tenor echo off the page. Each aria of blotted ink rang out, a brief refrain to stave off caps and gowns, long-winded speeches and circumstance without the pomp. But time kept moving. The future deigned to knock, and off I left to pay my many dues.

And so it starts again. We carry with us those that came before, adoring pieces of our checkered past. We root ourselves in what we know, so future woes won’t chill us to the bone. Despite the days that break and fall away—that pile up beneath our heavy boots—I’ll build, explore and sing here just the same; I’ll eagerly await that which is new. For though what’s yet to come may come in force, that which lies within will always help us stay the course.

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