T minus 5 days
I love a good countdown. Not Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of All-Time or E’s Craziest Reality Show Meltdowns, though I have strong opinions about both, I am referring to the crossing off of days until something happens. I counted down the last 120 or so days of my high school career. Armed with a sharpie marker and a hand-drawn color coded chart on a piece of poster board hanging in my room, I crossed them off one at a time before going to bed each night. It wasn’t that I wanted out of high school, well it wasn’t just that I wanted out of high school; it was that I wanted to be aware of the expiration date of this experience. I knew I was ready to leave, so I set out to make sure that I enjoyed the time I had left there. For me, knowing that there were only 43 days left made it easier to be in the moment, to focus on this place and these people that I would soon be leaving.
I employed a similar tactic senior year of college, although by then I had abandoned the poster board for a more public display. I taped the number of days we had until graduation, along with the number of days we had until all of our work was due, to the mirror in the bathroom that I shared with my suitemate, Lindsay. I would post the new numbers each morning before I took a shower. Since I started my day before Lindsay, I would then get to hear her reaction to our dwindling time left in college and the fast approaching deadline for turning in our papers. Simply put, she was not as enthusiastic about my countdown as I was.
But just as in high school, I was ready to leave and start something new but I didn’t want to waste the time I had left focusing on leaving. It may seem counter-intuitive but for me, putting a number to it, making it a concrete and immovable set of time, meant I did not focus on it. Lindsay did not feel the same way, a sentiment shared by many of our friends who became privy to my countdown through the use of our bathroom. I could understand it from her perspective, the number that greeted her each morning was a clear reminder that soon this time would be over and we were not certain of what was coming next. In retrospect, she was an excellent sport about it and my refusal to stop. Practically, I also wanted to make sure that my thesis was done well ahead of time and would not be finished (or started) the night before it was due as so many papers before it had been.
It was not just school that I employed this tactic; I have done it at every job and before every move. With this track history, it should come as no surprise that I am counting down the days until I move to camp (currently 5). However, I do not countdown any part of camp. It seems that camp, perhaps because of it’s known brief nature, is the one place that I do not need a reminder to be in the moment, to appreciate the people around me and the place I am in. I do not need to put a number to it to remember that the privilege of this experience will be short and there is no excuse in wasting any of it. But until I get to that place, I will continue to cross off days in my mind.