The days are long but the years are short

"The days are long but the years are short"

Everybody loves quotes, and I’m no exception. Those little nuggets of wisdom get shared and re-shared, and it gets me thinking that each quote holds within it an interesting idea or true wisdom which so often is passed over with a smile, a like or a quick thought about how accurate it was. Then we forget about it entirely.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but I often think “Hey, wouldn’t it to be great to puzzle over this in greater detail and uncover some true wisdom”. No joke, I genuinely have those thoughts. I see it as giving the quote a deeper personal meaning, so that if I choose to share or pass on that quote to a person who is in need, I have a more solid appreciation for how the quote serves me or adds value to your my life.

The quote below I’ve countered a few times, I know it’s one of Gretchen Rubin’s favourites. And when I heard it recently it got me thinking about it again. 

So to the quote…

The days are short but the years are long.

From a work perspective I agree with this. When you have a typical, 9-5 job (which is my main experience of work) whilst the days can sometimes themselves seem to go fast, the weeks, months and consequently years appear to rush by in comparison. It’s scary. It’s like a premonition to a pre-midlife-crisis.

Rarely do I make it to Thursday or Friday without someone commenting about how fast the week has gone. Whilst it’s nice to get to the weekend quickly, the weekends pass just as quickly in my mind, and I sometimes experience this tinge of regret. Life is happening in each moment of each day, the difficulties of one week roll right into the next and transform into a good week, which rolls into a great week, and then a so-so week in comparison to the 3rd. This is all happening in a relative eye-blink. 

It’s that idea that life is racing by and I'm giving up my most focused, energised hours to working (which I do enjoy) that can feel like one big gotcha! moment. Can I get out of the cycle? How do I take greater satisfaction in the passing of each day? How do I make the activities of each day more meaningful? Agh! So many questions.

Are the days long? They can be. When I'm in the grips of a given day, then I can sometimes feel every hour and sometimes those hours slowly crawl by. Not necessarily if I'm bored or uninspired, but sometimes I find myself looking up at the clock and being surprised so little time has passed. 

Maybe it’s more about memory? Thinking back to 2016, I can remember eventful things that happened in a certain month or a week at a push, but the days are just removed from memory. Even the days which eventful things happened on are hard to recall, I can remember if it was the beginning, middle or end of a given month most likely. That’s kind of a shame to be honest. It would be nice to remember the last year better than that. Whilst a lot of the months were tough ones, I still enjoyed them and they were satisfying. 

I listened to Gretchen Rubin’s short podcast on the topic, and her general thought was that it’s about overlooking or not enjoying the mundane actions of each day. Because those mundane moments like bad workplaces, bad commutes, weird co workers and so on will one day be looked back at with nostalgia. And the things we do in spite of those mundane or negative daily issues make us smile. 

I also read another article where a mother with a young child was expressing frustration at how people sharing the quote with her, and that she didn’t appreciate the sentiment. I think to her it seemed like a bit of a judgement that she wasn’t enjoying the tough parts of her day with her child. Her argument was that people seemed to forget just how long the days could be. I can’t speak for that as I’ve yet to become a parent. But it was interesting to see another side. How can you enjoy or make use of that quote if your long days are really excruciating.

How do I make the years longer?

One idea I have to make the years seem longer is a one sentence journal. The concept is you sum up your day, or one event of that day in a sentence, and you do this every day. At the very least it will let me remember the main event of each day, even if that main event was something dull and boring (isn’t that the point thought?). Dull and boring is sometimes fun. I often enjoying going home, watching twitch whilst designing. So if my one sentence journal simply read " March 18th - Watched Carci play Silent Hill whilst illustrating a cool van" I would really enjoy remembering that. 

My 'cool van' I illustrated whilst watching Carcinogen play Silent Hill

My 'cool van' I illustrated whilst watching Carcinogen play Silent Hill

I’m going to try and give this a go as it would be ace to be able to look back at a journal and trigger memories from each day. I think that would make the years feel longer.

Another thought to be present more, and worry less. Oh wow, that sounds so easy doesn’t it? It goes back to people’s tendency to overestimate what can be achieved in a short space of time, and also underestimate what can be achieved long term. I think the long term is best looked at in quarters and years, and the short term as day and weeks. 

I’m definitely guilty of this. I enjoy being productive, I enjoy keeping my life in order but this can sometimes become a bit of an obsession and the anxiety can prevent me enjoying the moment. What I can improve is not berating myself for tasks that go uncompleted, and take greater pride in what I have achieved. After all, right now I’m working around my 9-5. I just need to remember that I’m working my 9-5 for every other part of my life as well.

So to summarise. My days are long-ish and my years definitely feel short. A lot of that feels inevitable but I'm going to give the one sentence journal a try, and if I focus each day on working towards greater goals then hopefully I won't look at any day as wasted time.