Time marches swiftly on, but our time pieces, apparently, do not always follow suit; it is with great sadness and some disbelief that I make this horrible announcement: I have lost my watch.
Perhaps you feel that this is not devastating news. “It’s just a watch,” you might say. “Get a new one,” you might suggest, rather callously. “What does this have to do with being a twenty-something in Portland?” you might ask, further illustrating your ignorance and insolence.
Well, it is not just a watch, I cannot simply get a new one, and it has everything* to do with being a twenty-something in Portland.
This particular watch was a Citizen. Small, silver, simple. Its band was narrow, and its tiny face had no numbers, only lines marking each hour. Elegant and sophisticated, it was not so much a piece of jewelry demanding admiration as it was a silent and reliable sidekick, always there when you needed it, but not one to steal the show.
My parents gave me this watch for my 14th birthday. Shortly thereafter I went hiking on a trail in the Montana mountains. Upon returning to the trailhead, I realized my watch was gone, so I ran half a mile back up the trail to the stream where I had slipped and fallen in. I crouched down, peered under the log I had slipped on, saw a glimmer of light, reached my hand in, and pulled out my watch. It had miraculously not been swept away by the current of this rushing mountain stream, and more miraculously, it was still working. Years later, in Guatemala, I would get off a bus to find my watch missing, jump back on, run over to my seat, find the watch lodged between the seat cushion and the wall, and jump back off the bus before it left again. Still later the watch would fall off my wrist while crossing a busy street in Peru, but again, I realized it was gone, ran back, and snatched it up off the road before it was run over and lost forever.
In retrospect, it seems my watch has been trying pretty hard to get away from me. No doubt my wild and carefree lifestyle was too much for its delicate sensibilities. But I was always able to thwart its efforts until now. And now seems like a significant time for the watch to finally succeed in escaping me; I’m turning 28 in less than a week. As you’ll remember from two paragraphs ago, I got the watch when I was 14, which means I’ve had this watch for half my life. Turning 28 also means that I’ve been menstruating for as long as I haven’t.** This seems fraught with meaning. I’ve been developing as a woman for as long as it took me to develop into a woman. Crossing the threshold into my 29th year seems to indicate some next stage, and no, I don’t believe it’s manhood. Could it be that losing my watch signals my movement into… adulthood?
Twenty-eight seems to be a significant milestone, even without the personal details of my hormones. My roommate Samurai informs me it’s around the age of 28 that you experience your Saturn Return. This is when a planet’s position in the sky determines your life events and is also known as Bullshit. But even if astrology is not our most accurate science, let’s consider the Saturn Return: Wikipedia tells me it’s when “a transiting Saturn planet returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth.” This is supposed to impact a person’s development between the ages of 27 and 29, which is about how long it takes for the Saturn to come back around. Wikipedia continues, “as Saturn ‘returns’ to the degree in its orbit occupied at the time of birth, a person crosses over a major threshold and enters the next stage of life. With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood.” Well I’ll be damned. Maybe my watch is actually controlled by extraterrestrials on my returning planet, and they knew that the time [piece] of my youth was at an end.
Then there’s Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian dude known for Waldorf school philosophy, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophy. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily put stock in spiritual science, the term he coined for his study of science and mysticism, but it is interesting to think about his thoughts on human development, particularly his theory of seven-year cycles. He suggests that we change every seven years and that the way we see ourselves and relate to the world is related to which phase we’re in. If you’re not an idiot, you will have realized that 7 is a factor of 28, so whaddya know, I’m supposed to be transitioning into my 28-35 phase right about now. Which, it turns out, is when one is most creatively productive. This is when many researchers and inventors tend to have their lightbulb moments and when religious leaders like Jesus and Buddha have had their greatest “Hey, I’m a prophet!” moments. So again, all signs point to my watch being some sort of mystical guide, whose departure is symbolic of my new life stage, the stage in which I no longer need the watch and realize that I knew what time it was all along. Because the time is inside of me.
The point is, I’ve literally and figuratively lost time. I’ve lost the time of post-collegiate restlessness and confusion, when it was sort of okay to not understand things like taxes and insurance plans and circuit breakers. I’ve lost the time of feeling new to the city and of trying to establish a friend group and figure out where I fit in. I don’t know where that time has gone. Now that I’ve lived in Portland for five years, I’m somewhat settled, I feel like I almost understand certain things about being an adult, I have a great group of friends, and I can give directions to people from out of town. I’ve lost the time of naive pseudo adulthood, but I’ve also gained the time of hesitant real adulthood.
I’ve lost my watch, but I’ve gained the time to start doing what I really want to do. Time to buy house plants and finally frame that picture that’s been lying around for four years. Time to do adult-y things, which aren’t that different from 23-year-old things, except, maybe, for a more refined perspective on what’s actually important (that and better honed dance moves). Time to stop caring what other people think. Time to make an effort to be generous and kind. Time to put my energy into the world and make something cool. And yeah… time to get a new watch.
In newfound adulthood,
Your Portland Twenty-Something
**Apologies if you didn’t want to know when I started my period.