Forty years go by in a flash — that’s all I can say.

As high school graduation ceremonies approach, I recall mine as if it were yesterday.

It was 1974 and the whole, big wide world lay before me.

Back then, we 18-year-olds could not imagine being 50-something — our parents’ ages — and creeping toward retirement.

But rest assured, the time does go, and quickly.

And then, well, it’s kind of like that thing you hear people say sometimes:

“I woke up one day and I was old.”

I wouldn’t expect a high school senior to grasp this aging thing — nor should he. It’s only through experience that such realizations come.

Life is an interesting phenomenon. It seems very long at first, and then when you get to be about 55, it seems very short. You’ve done much of what you set out to do— if you’re lucky, that is — and you start thinking about what it will be like to get up every morning in retirement, asking yourself, “What shall I do today?” and then doing whatever you damn well please.

That can be good or bad, depending on whether you are an imaginative type and see lots of empty space and time as an opportunity to do fun things you didn’t get to do when you were young and working 40 hours a week.

If you’re the type of person who gets bored easily, then I would imagine retirement would be scary.

But how could one be bored, with so many books to read, films to see, places to explore and people to meet?

I guess if I were to give advice to graduating high school seniors, I’d say, learn not to be bored.

Don’t ever allow yourself to get into a frame of mind where you see nothing ahead.

Early on in life, make a promise to yourself to read, every day, even if it’s just a few pages of a book.

If you are poor, or infirm or friendless, reading allows you the luxury of traveling the world from your armchair, meeting interesting people and learning how to do a million and one things.

Reading will make you smart, empathetic, understanding and a sympathetic friend. It will make you a better job interviewee and a better employee in whatever work you do. It will enrich your life in ways that you could never imagine possible.

The more you read, the better reader you will become, and the more you will want to read.

It’s infectious, reading.

You’ll find yourself champing at the bit to find the next book, recommending books to others, and buying them for friends and relatives.

The great thing about books is that you don’t have to read only a certain type, such as fiction. You can read biographies and autobiographies, travel books, books set in other countries, historical books, books about politics — the list goes on.

I know I’m not alone in my love for reading.

At the Goodwill store on The Concourse in Waterville a few days ago, I perused the fiction books as a woman scoured the shelf behind me, her husband following along after her, helping her find books he knew she’d like. Occasionally he’d pluck a book from a shelf and call out to her, “Honey, how about this one?” And he’d read her the title. It was so sweet.

When I shop at Hannaford, I always go to a certain clerk at the checkout who loves to read. We often share stories about books and authors.

Last night, she told me that she loves nonfiction and always looks forward to her work breaks, when she can pull out a book and read.

While others in the break room are chatting, she is on the high seas!

I have discovered that one of the greatest benefits reading has offered me is that it forces me to stop running and sit down. Being a type-A personality, I tend to want to pack everything possible into a day, even when my tired and aging body tells me to stop.

And then when I do and slouch into an armchair with a book, I thank myself profusely.

Which brings me ’round to the 40-year anniversary of my graduation from Skowhegan Area High School.

It’s this year, and while I’ve received no official announcement that a reunion is in the works, I’ve heard rumblings that one may occur in the fall.

I hope it does. The reunions I’ve attended over the years have been fun. At first, I had little interest in seeing old high school classmates, but when, finally, I attended the 15th, I was glad I did. The people who in high school seemed cliquey and snobbish were friendly and open and curious.

It’s funny how, over time, our perceptions change. Or is it that time changes all of us?

Either way, it is fleeting. Carpe diem.

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 26 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com