Flannel Shirt

On the passage of time

Let’s face it, nobody knows when they are middle-aged. Optimistically, it’d be swell if that milestone was still a decade or so away for me. Heck, making it this far is like twice winning a cosmic lottery, for which I have immeasurable gratitude. But the mere chance that I’m near that middle is enough to reflect on the inevitable passage of time.

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it.”

– James Taylor

My favorite flannel shirt has been with me since high school; when it was a sign of rebellion and teenage angst. Did I mention it was the 90s? Wearing it on a plaid shirt days made me feel a little less vulnerable, a bit more mature, and cool like the Fonz (or whoever was the big name then). But in my attempt to assimilate, I think I missed the point. While plaid was more counterculture than lumberjack then, I skewed more “ragged in the woods” than “rage against the machine”. I was just ticking away the moments that make up a dull day, wearing that shirt waiting for someone or something to show me the way.

“Old age and the passage of time teach all things.”

– Sophocles

Fast forward a few years. The shirt is the same, in a relative way, but I’m older. I’ve worn this shirt to the office, on cross-country flights, on dates with my wife, and to fancy(ish) dinners. Its threads are thinning and color fading. It fits me different, or maybe I fit it different? Like seeing a controversial banned song from my youth featured in an ABC sitcom, the juxtaposition from grunge to mundane seems out of this world. Wearing it now is like time traveling. My own Delorean. Passing seamlessly thru bygone memories and future intentions. Of course, if I knew back then what I know right now, I would have used my time more wisely. Not enough to have even a few regrets; and I’d like to keep it that way. Instead, I try to celebrate that I know right now more than what I knew back then. That my first half informs the second. Time can stand still, I can keep my will, and age will continue to teach me.

“Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry;”

– Robert Herrick, Poem 208 in Hesperides

So before the years start feeling shorter. I aim to find time to finish that half a page of scribbled lines, to wear more flannel shirts, and enjoy the journey not just the destination. Time is our only true commodity, and once lost can never be regained. Yet time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us. In a roundabout way, everything is the same as it ever was and same as it will ever be. A good thing to remember near the middle. What once felt plentiful is still plentiful. There’s time to gather, time for peace, time to be filled with richer, fuller opportunities and experiences. Time to be livin la vida without the loca. What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet. I’m confident there is room for so much more, I see a rainbow rising ahead.

So here’s to more plaid shirt days, in whatever form they take.