We Should Be On By Now

By Emma Alvarez Gibson

Remember when time was interminable? Nothing ever happened quickly enough. A week was ninety days long. A month was an entire year. A year was a lifetime. Time was the great enemy.

That was a long time ago, I suppose, though it seems like just a couple of years. Time is less an enemy now, and more a rival.

Sometime in the late ’90s, I tagged along with a friend to a birthday party in Los Feliz,  for a French woman I barely knew. The hostess, also French, had brought out the birthday girl’s cake and unsmilingly announced that in France no one sang Happy Birthday, and that anyway this was a much better song. And she played this:

After I looked up the lyrics, it seemed like an ominous, existential sort of choice for a birthday song, but that first time I heard it, I was transfixed. I was twenty-four and so eager to get the show on the road, already. This song said everything I felt on the topic of Time: the impatience; the feeling that I couldn’t pull my own cart fast enough to make a difference in the world; the nagging idea that I’d missed the boat already, somehow, before I’d even begun; and the beginnings of the notion that I would one day fall prey to the old age-and-crumble routine.

More than ten years later, Bowie’s song still says everything I feel on the topic. It’s a beautifully melodramatic–and yeah, okay, ominous and existential– reminder that the clock is ticking, that things get gross and icky whether or not you do anything with your life, that you’d better get your ass out there and on the line, dammit, because otherwise what’s the point?

Life is short, friends. Time may bend and warp, stretch and snap, but we’ve only got however much we’ve got.

Shouldn’t we be on by now?






Emma is a cheerfully obsessive writer, editor and creative gun-for-hire.  She’s had a hand in all types of media, at every step in the process. Jack Move is her fifth from-scratch magazine. (Clearly, this has become A Thing.) She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son. Follow her on Twitter (@ealvarezgibson) and find out more at www.emmaalvarezgibson.com.

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