Round Numbers

Even after all the promises you’ve broken to yourself,
All will be well. 
You can ask me how but only time will tell.
– “All Will Be Well” by The Gabe Dixon Band

There is something deep in the human psyche that makes us inclined to want to celebrate and reflect on anniversaries that end in 0s or 5s. It’s not clear to me if this is a biological imperative or driven more by cultural influences, but regardless of the cause it remains a fact of life.

This week I was back home in Saskatchewan, in part to celebrate a round number anniversary. In this case that of a very special person in my life, my Baba Mabel Androsoff who turned 90 on June 6th.

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After a family dinner we had at her home in Blaine Lake in honour of her birthday, we decided to watch the video of her 65th birthday party. This was one of the first major family events that I have any significant memory of. As I sat there watching the parade of faces, many of whom have now left us, a realization started to wash over me. The images I were seeing were from 25 years ago. Mental math ensued. Then it hit me: in this video, my parents are the same age that I am now. A strange feeling started to grow in the pit of my stomach, which I struggled to articulate.

Later that evening I was driving back to Saskatoon and decided to take a bit of a scenic detour through the north end of Saskatoon where early in my career I lived and worked. As I was driving a second realization washed over me. Exactly 10 years ago I was in the midst of a particularly monumental period in my life. That 12 month period from September 2003 to September 2004 would set in motion much of the next decade of my professional and personal life. I could viscerally recall exactly what I was doing 10 years ago in June of 2004 and how the shadows of that time in my life still linger in unexpected ways. That same unarticulated feeling came back.

As I sit here writing this, I can tell you what that feeling isn’t. It isn’t a feeling of being old. It isn’t a feeling of regret. It isn’t even a feeling of nostalgia. Perhaps I can best describe what it is as vertigo brought on by a sudden loss of a frame of reference. In that feeling may also lie the reason as to why we have such a strong attachment to round number anniversaries – after all, one of the ways to treat motion sickness is to focus on a fixed spot on the horizon.

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