Days are Long; Years Short


With the refrains of Auld Lang Syne still fresh, political cartoons will continue a tradition of depicting a sash-wearing Baby New Year morphing into a haggard Father Time over the course of 365 days, 52 weeks, or 12 months. The days are long but the years are short.

The days are long but the years are short. What does that mean? A New Yorker by way of Kansas City, Missouri named Gretchen Rubin (no relation) is credited with this inspiring quote. Wiki says Rubin studies and writes on topics like habits, happiness, and human nature. Interesting, but the quote? It first appeared in Rubin’s 2009 book, The Happiness Project, subtitled, Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. “Happiness” spent two years on the New York Times bestseller list and millions of copies have been sold.

The days are long but the years are short. When writing the book, Rubin created a short story she turned into a one-minute video called The Years Are Short. It’s easily found and viewed on the web. Rubin’s revelation began when she rode a city bus with her young daughter on their way to school. Sometimes Rubin tugged her daughter to the bus stop. Most times it was an impatient ride. Meanwhile, her daughter found wonderment in the treasures of The Big City. One morning with great excitement the daughter pointed out an ordinary dog on a leash and Rubin discovered “It”. The bus ride was parenthood and those experiences helped comprise the childhood of her daughter. It was life itself. Rubin determined that in the not-too-distant-future, they’d no longer ride the bus. She made a point to think, “Thank goodness, another chance to ride the bus.” Fast forward and the two began walking to school. Years later, both recalled the rides. “I loved that bus,” said the daughter. “So did I,” Rubin said. With that, “The days are long, but the years are short” was born.

In a blink, infants become teenagers and then young adults. Coulda-woulda-shoulda resolutions are forgotten and fall by the wayside. Life happens, all within the reality of long days and short years.

Through her writing, Rubin is quoted extensively. They have the same relevance on January 1st as they do on December 31st. Many stand out:
-“What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
-“Work harder to appreciate your ordinary day.”
-“I can DO ANYTHING I want, but I can’t DO EVERYTHING I want.”
-“Never start a sentence with the words, ‘No offense.’”
-“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”
-“The things that go wrong often make the best memories.”

Even in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley, there are still 12 months, 52 weeks, and 365 days in a year. The days are long but the years are short. Make the most of them. Happy 2023.