Friday, December 9, 2011

Two years and then a lifetime

A couple of months ago, I tripped past two years in my new job — an anniversary so insignificant that I had not noted it until my wife reminded me. Earlier in my life, two years would have seemed like forever. I spent three years in my first full-time post-college job (with the U.S. Coast Guard), then just over two years each in my next two jobs, laying the foundation for a career in journalism. Then I spent 29 years in my next job, ending in a layoff and a year of job hunting before landing my current gig.

Now, the past two years seem brief, but that may be only because those 29 years with one company skewed my average. Today's worker, labor statisticians tell us, changes jobs several times over his working life. A friend near my own age told me last night that he was embarking on a new career after eight years in one job. He was restless and wanted a new challenge. In contrast, I spent my early working years looking for a job with permanence, a comfortable situation that would give my then-young children stability and a sense of security and give myself the confidence of familiarity and detailed memory. A decade in which I moved six times was more than enough adventure for me. I had chosen to forgo the security and benefits of a Coast Guard career primarily because I knew it would entail frequent moves. So I left the Coast Guard and moved two times in the next five years.

The past two years were brief, a single tick, it seemed, in the antique clock we moved from one home to another. But in an earlier time, which also seems not long ago at all, my three-year military commitment had seemed to stretch forever ahead of me, just like my four years of college looked from the perspective of freshman orientation.

Now all those years have passed. My little children have children of their own, and time swoops past me like autumn leaves in the wind. So much has changed, yet I feel the same. I chase my grandchildren and tickle them into ecstatic squeals the same way I chased and tickled their parents. It is the same love and emotion and the same I. The years disappear like views in a mountain fog, briefly glimpsed, then gone.

Two years in a new job strobe past like a flash of lightning on a dark night. Whole decades slip away before a rumble of thunder startles me into present day.

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