Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Four More Years

No, this post isn't what you think it is. It has to do with four year time spans, not terms in office.

It came to me this week that it was four years ago this month that my start-up was shut down, throwing me into the ranks of the unemployed for the first time. Somehow that didn't seem right, so I counted, recounted, and counted again. I marked it against other life mile markers, and no matter how I counted it, it kept coming up to four years. But it still didn't seem right. It doesn't seem that long ago, and four years is such a long time. Isn't it?

Actually it isn't. But the problem is that a certain four years of my life left an indelible mark in my mind: the four years from freshman to senior in high school, 1982-1986. It seems like I lived several entire lifetimes during those four years. Dreams and dramas of epic proportions were hatched, lived and died during that period. It took forever to live through and I could write several novels on just a few of my experiences during that time. I couldn't wait for it to end and wanted it to last forever.

So four years, using those years as a yard stick, take forever and are enough time to accomplishing something remarkable. Several cultural events back up this sentiment: it's the amount of time it takes a kid to become a high school graduate. It's the time it takes a high school graduate to become a college grad. It's the amount of time for someone to train for the next Olympics. It's the term of a President.

But as I get older, four years is becoming a smaller period of time, largely since I can start pointing to other events that have lasted longer: I have been married for eight years, I have lived in my house for seven, my daughter is nearly five. And, of course, four years is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of my experiences. When I graduated high school, four years represented over a quarter of my living memories. Today it is close to ten percent.

I also take a longer term horizon for my goals in life and how I approach mastery of the talents and subjects that interest me. I take a life-learning point of view rather than a "when is the next promotion" attitude, which makes the four-year goal post a lot less meaningful.

Since my perception of the four year time span has changed, I shouldn't be surprised that my unemployment stint was "only" four years ago. What does give me pause is the fact that, statistically, I only have about ten more four-year time periods left.

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