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Pocket WatchWhen I was a student I used to scoff at putting the date on papers.

It was a few extra seconds of my time that I needed for stressing about the first line of the assignment. It was a line of markings on a document otherwise unblemished by numerical figures – a compliance with the rules of academic paper form, making it uglier than it already was. And, I confess, I didn’t always know what the date was, and I didn’t bother to check.

Writing the date on academic papers had a logical, up front purpose. Now – not having academic papers anymore – I’ve found myself marking my writing journal with the date. (It’s not a daily journal, just an idea vat). I’ve begun scribbling six ugly numbers and breaking them up into pairs with sharp dashes at the top of pages. And I don’t know why I never did this before.

It’s a beautiful thing, really. It’s an acceptance that I am a speck in history, and all I get right now is six (or eight if I’m feeling long-winded) numbers and two dashes for 24 hours before they change.

Now that I’m on this train of thought, I think it goes further than that…

Recording the date on my journal entry, regardless of the substance beneath it, is an understanding of a longer past and a longer future in which events are connected. It’s the dotted line between days regardless of how much they are separated – connecting them, but also spreading them out. Respectfully regarding their distance, yet desperately holding hands.

And (and this is really quite a thought) recording the date is maybe a sign of hopefulness.

When I take the time to consciously mark the date on a tangible piece of paper, I’m hoping that a pair of eyes (not necessarily mine) will retrace my steps and come across that entry and see that date I don’t know how far into the future, and therefore be transported back into that time with me as I write.

Maybe it’s a selfish hope that anything I write in a journal will ever be read by anyone but me. But it could also be another sort of hopefulness in a world gone mad with digital code and utterly ephemeral instantly-received-instantly-deleted messages.

It’s a cry for something that lasts and has more in common with my grandfather’s sepia photographs and pocket watch than it does with an email.

Perhaps a great problem I had with recording the date on papers before stemmed from a desire to avoid thinking about the future. Or perhaps is was an act of refusal to ever look back into the past to be faced with who I was. Maybe it was that I had no real understanding of any other reality but the sudden present.

And undoubtedly I’m over-thinking this. But that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

…Thinking until one day you come back and see those thoughts tattooed with some distant date, and you start thinking through them all over again like old friends catching up.

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