Last week I went to Los Angeles to visit a friend. She lives in Japan but would be visiting the States for a convention, and as Los Angeles is considerably easier to get to, I took the opportunity to spend some time with her. As with all the best friendships, it was as though no time had passed, though it had been three years since we’d last been face to face. And though we live in vastly different cultures, on different continents, doing different kinds of work, as we talked we found that we both faced essentially the same core issue at this point in life: not enough time.

I’ve written before about the tension between wanting to live many lives and wanting simply to live one life well. There is also the awareness that our time here is finite and will ultimately run out. That’s been underscored for me lately by the birth of my two nieces, who grow and change so fast at their young age that I can hardly recognize them from one visit to the next. The time that acts on them also acts on me. It’s easy to forget that this is so when I see essentially the same face in the mirror each morning. But it’s why I suddenly feel old when some kid I used to babysit for gets married, or goes to college; suddenly I’m left wondering, what have I done with all this time that has passed?

My friend from Japan had done a great deal since the last time I saw her, at least in my view. She’d changed her career, moved to a new city, and essentially started a new life there, a more satisfying life in many ways. She’d also found a way to come back to the U.S., if only for a short visit, something she’s been wanting to do for a long time. To me, it seemed like a great deal of accomplishment for three years. To her, it seemed to fall drastically short. 

When we first come into this world, there are things we must learn and ways in which we must grow, fairly immediately, if we’re going to thrive. Growth at that age is animal growth, dynamic and physical. As adults, we grow more like plants, which don’t appear to move observed but are slowly, over time, stretching their leaves out towards the sun. It was easy to see this in my friend, how over the last three years, her branches had all grown so steadily in that direction. It takes others to see this kind of growth. It takes friends to encourage us to move, inch by inch, towards the light.