Recently I was researching a topic for a ROAMcare project. I thought I had all the information I needed but I wanted to find something that I could reference that was not “scholarly” research. I turned to my chosen search engine and typed in my query. Skipping the titles of the resulting pages, I gave the descriptions a quick scan. I found a couple I thought would work. I clicked on one and then the other, and as the page painted on the screen, I realized I was looking at an article I had written! The words looked familiar but it took me a moment to realize those were my words!
You would think I would remember something I wrote. In my defense it was from years ago, over 3 years ago - so, years ago. Three years to me, now, seems like a long time. When we’re young, very young, preschool age young, three years doesn't mean anything. That makes sense because when we are only 4 or 5 years old, 3 years is most of our lives and we have no reference to how long something lasts. We don’t think about time. We wake up, we eat, we play, we nap, we play again, we sleep. The only thing that varies from day to day is what size romper we are wearing. It’s a happy rut to be in.
As we get older, three years starts to have some meaning although it is still fairly abstract. At age 8 we wonder how could have been happy being only 5. We have so much more to entertain us, and we are quite content staying a happy 8 year old. To the 8 year old version of ourselves, the 11 year old model is bigger, has a bigger bike, but probably more homework too!
When we cross the double digit age threshold, our 11 year old selves start putting some meaning into a three year stretch. Year by year we wonder if we'll ever be as happy as we were “back then.” At thirteen there are times when we look back three years and see how happy we were at 10. How easy it was then, in the safety of elementary school when nobody really cared what color our bikes were. We were happy! But at the same time, we look ahead three years to when we might trade that bike in for a license and a car! At the time, that may be our greatest achievement ever! But so is high school!
Three years is a near eternity by the time we finally get through high school. The 18 year old versions of us don’t remember being that gawky 15 year old at a first dance, to shy to make eye contact with those peers on the other side of the gym. At the height of our youth, we are on top of the world! Everyone looks to us to be leaders. Graduations and parties are happening and we are as happy as we think we can ever be. Our next milestone birthday we will be 21, but that is so far away and it doesn’t even get us through college. But it’s no big deal because we could stay 18 forever! Getting through college or into “the real world” only means our reign as BMOC is over and it's to the bottom of the hierarchical heap again. No, we won't ever be happier than we are at 18.
Eventually we enter the labor world to climb the work ladder. Progressing through our mid to late 20’s make three years seem more like the adult version of elementary school. We see in three years a slightly bigger version of us – bigger job, bigger car, bigger house, bigger family. No different than our young elementary version, we know how to define happiness by the things we accumulate. Wiser, we also start to recognize our growing families and circles of new friends, new opportunities for happiness in their camaraderie.
In what seems to be a blink, suddenly, we are middle agers. Three years seems to be a drop in the bucket. Plans that we were “definitely going to do next year” don’t get done for three: a three year old car becomes “new” to us. Three years represents the life expectancy of the paint on the walls. The feeling that every day is the same stretches into every year is the same. The only thing that varies from year to year is the waist band size you are wearing. At first thought we may see it as a not so happy rut to be in. But then it's better happy because we can be content to defer plans and save on extravagances and we can spread more of who we are and what we have with those closest to us. Three years is most transparent seeing the growth in our own children. We try to ease their transitions based on our experiences. The work is hard, but we’re happy making others happy.
In time, we move beyond the challenges of adulthood to ponder upon our memories to relish our defining moments. We also look ahead at plans that we are “definitely going to do next week.” We realize our purpose to this life. Three years might not seem much but more than enough time. Our circles may become smaller. We may not be in demand as we had been. Yet, we do what we can so that others can be happy because that is what makes us happy. We can’t imagine ever having been happier than we are right now.
Wherever you are now, know that about every 3 years you will have a new outlook. Eventually there will come a time when you don’t even think about time. Like you, we will wake up, we’ll eat, play, maybe nap, then we will play some more, sleep, and then repeat. The only thing that varies from day to day is the growing feeling in our hearts, knowing we've found a happy rut to hang out in.