As a runner, I always understood the word “milestone” in terms of distance. How long it’s been since you hit the last the one. How they’re important markers on the road of life. How they pop up and symbolize something so significant that you have to remember it, memorialize it and celebrate it by screaming out, “Dude, who knew I could fit a whole bag of Cheetos in my mouth!” (Not sure that last one has anything to do with running, but …)
When I hear the word “milestone,” I always focus on the “mile,” and never the “stone.” Only, recently I’ve come to appreciate that second part of the word a bit more — what it really means. How important it is to the greater construct.
Mile-STONE — an event of great significance … that wallops you on the head. I believe the term comes from ancient Greece where the swift marathoner Runesius won a country race, only to be bludgeoned in the head by an archrival with a rock. “Boy, that milestone sure did wallop Runesius!” someone remarked, and the rest as they say is history. (Or at least, that’s how I picture it.)
This new meaning of milestone has come to me as my daughter winds down her school year, which seems loaded with significance and change on the horizon. This week, for instance, marked her last performance with the children’s choir at Memorial Presbyterian downtown. She graduated. Apparently, she isn’t a “children” anymore.
“Thump!” went the milestone. It knocked me for a loop, and I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.
How is this possible? How could it be already? Just yesterday she was the wee little one in the choir. Today, she is one of the elder statesmen. A graduate. An alumna. Ouch!
And the milestones are coming fast and heavy. Thump, thump, thump!
This year has many. Children’s choir ending. Last year of elementary school. Learning how to drive. Wait a minute, that one is still mercifully a few years off. But this feels like a time of transition. And it’s tough. Milestones are something you want to celebrate — momentous and memorable — but now they’re something I’m starting to dread. They hurt! They’re significant, but also signs of how quickly everything is passing by. A milestone is not something you see in the future. It’s always in the rearview mirror.
There’s a theory on life that the more you enjoy it, the faster it goes. It’s ironic really. If we want time to slow down and go at a more manageable pace, all we have to do is get bored, dread everything and wish it would mercifully be over. Then time slows to a crawl. Love, enjoy and celebrate every moment with your kid and you pay the price as the milestones — as wonderful as they are — keep piling up. And boy do they hurt. Thump, thump, thump!
Also published on Medium.