By Carla Lever
Ever had a morbid fascination with the car odometer? (Relax Google trigger fingers; it’s that thing that counts the mileage.) Ever watched it at some precariously balanced number, in rapt awe for the moment when it finally clocks over to the shiny new row of 0s?
Of course you have. Why, it’s one of the finer examples of human nature, right up there with helping the aged cross the road and obsessively wondering why the chicken did.
Perhaps it harks back to something deep and primal in our nature that was vital to our cavebound forbearers’ survival, like herds of wildebeest tending to get rowdier once they hit critical mass of double figures. On the other hand, perhaps it could be a nice dose of nurture. I mean, school math training with those little wooden abacus beads has a lot to flipping answer for, if you ask me – we’re Pavlov-trained with pink fizzers to want to make sets of ten.
Entirely constructed phenomena that’d have Foucault popping a vein just seem to strike a chord with us. New Year’s Eve is one. Turning the big 3-0 is another. I mean, the visual fascination of time ticking over to 0 draws the rubberneckers like nothing so much as a multi-car pileup.
…which leads us nicely back to our opening analogy of car odometers. There’s really no time quite like a big 0 number to start evaluating your car’s performance.
Little things that might have escaped the attention for months suddenly become something to worry about; you start thinking of the engine, the smoothness of the ride, whether you even LIKE the car to begin with, or if it’s time to trade it in for a newer model.
Those of you not numbed by impact from the giant hints I’ve been dropping might be able to spot where this is going. You see, I turned the big 3-0 last year. As I write this, a day before my 31st birthday, I find myself reflecting again on my life service plan. Now, 31 may not be one of those life benchmarks – in mechanical metaphors, it’s hardly a major service year.
Thankfully it’ll be a good few years before I have to get the ‘big 0’ panic on again. But it still shifts perspective. The cogs are turning on my life odometer and, no matter how artificial a concept that is, it still has a very real effect on my mental wellbeing.
Fortunately for me, my day is buried deep in the most popular birthing month in the calendar – New Years being an excellent time for conception and, conveniently, 9 months prior.
So I suppose I don’t have it as tough as some – it’s relatively easy to slink off and get lost in the general Virgo fanfare.
…but not this year. No! This year I’m going to own my experience and other such Dr Phil terms. You’re all witness to my pledge to act my age proudly (though maybe in oversized sunglasses).
See, if age brings wisdom, what I’ve learned is that when we become distracted by technicalities (like – cough, cough – numbers), we lose focus on the things that really matter. And, somewhat like those drivers who find their gaze drawn irresistibly to that slowly-turning odometer, we just might find ourselves blindsided by a bit of life happening in the interim…like a bus.
Thirty has brought some fun things along in its wake. There have been a few life detours, generally involving scenic routes, and minimal multi-car smash ups. Heck, I’m sorry to see it go. But I’m keeping my eyes on the road ahead. Goodness knows what’s around the next corner.
Follow Carla Lever on Twitter (@carlalever)
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