Milemarkers

Leland Buck essays

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And so comes the end of another year. 

And again, as every year, I start my year end reflection. Why is the end of the year always a trigger for looking backwards? When you think about it, the end of a year is really no different that any other time. It's just the moment when the calendar runs out and needs to be replaced with a new one. It's arbitrary, but necessary, like when the stapler runs out of staples, and needs to be refilled. The key difference is, unlike staples, years measure our time, so you hope that not as many of them get wasted as do staples. Each of us only gets a limited number of years in which to do our work, play our games. 

To be quite honest, I'm not a big fan of all this looking backwards business. As if I was suddenly going to realize that I'd spent the last twelve months in some dreadful pointless loop of folly instead of doing things that were worthwhile, rewarding, purposeful. I would much rather that the ceremony of replacing the calendar simply involve looking forward and didn't have to involve reading collections of obituaries of the famous who died in the last year, or suddenly being confronted with year-end how-to articles about the cleaning of closets, garages and kitchens. I thought if I subscribed to Lifehacker's RSS feed, I would somehow develop an immunity to the year-end organizational smart bomb. 

Apparently not.

There are no innoculations for the new year blues. But, like all milestones, they achieve their purpose through acknowledgement.

Last June, my youngest daughter and I drove across country together, and in a particular stretch of highway in Wyoming, we started counting mile-marker signs. Clearly, we were bored—carelessly bored—looking for some way to fill our thoughts with something less immense than the landscape. After about 20 miles, we had to put on an audiobook because the ticking off of miles was maddening. Those damn little, green signs! They just kept coming, and coming, but yet, they just couldn't come fast enough, and the distance between Sheridan and Casper quickly became unfathomable, like it should be measured in light years, not miles. 

Slowly, gradually, Audible's great time-passing elixer began to free our minds from the cursed milemarkers and they receeded back into the Wyoming landscape. Our eyes returned to the vistas of the Big Horn Mountains. That drive (minus the part I just described) was one of the happiest times in my reflection of the last year. That trip will always be a high mark in my relationship with my daughter, a week spent together out in the world. 

Lesson: Don't count the milemarkers. They're there. Every 5280 feet. That does not make them important. 

When I find myself looking at milestones, I remind myself that they only have meaning if I give them meaning. But my children, my family, my work, my writing, my stories and indeed, my time… my limited, crazy, time… is full of meaning. 

This year, I'm going to find a cute calendar with little animals on it. It will be fun to look at the pictures.


 

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About the Author

Leland Buck

Leland Buck is a father, husband, teacher, writer, coder and documentarian. He is the digital director at Mamalode, Treesource and elsewhere. You can find him at lelandbuck.com.

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