By Ashley Lodato
I’m fairly sure that I wasn’t the only audience member to get teary-eyed during the finale of The Merc’s Winter Wonder II production earlier this month. Even though I knew from rehearsals what was coming, the final song still called up in me a wave of nostalgia for what has been and for what will never be.
The song — “Seasons of Love,” from the musical Rent, and commonly known as “Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes” — featured the entire cast of Winter Wonder, mostly kids (so ironic, so sweet), asking how you calculate the value of a year in a human life. “525,600 minutes,” the song goes, “525,600 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes, how do you measure a year?” The answer is “measure in love.”
My emotion at seeing this song performed came partly, I’m sure, from the realization that although 525,600 minutes sounds like a long time, once you hit about 40 you realize how fleeting that span of time really is. To my kids, 525,600 minutes between their birthdays, or Christmas, or summer vacation, seems like an eternity. But to most of us adults it’s a period that only increases in tempo, especially at a time of life when you are watching with dismay as both your kids and your parents get older.
When I look back at the past 525,600 minutes I shudder to think about how many of them I might have squandered on meaningless activities, or on unproductive thoughts, or on nagging my children, or on reading People magazine (OK, that’s only at the dentist’s office twice a year, but still … ). Are any of those minutes I can measure in love? No; what a waste. I could have been reaching out to neighbors more often, reading more great books, writing more letters to elected officials, spending more quality time with my kids. I certainly didn’t fritter away all of my discretionary minutes, but given the fact that those minutes are finite and not recapturable I wish I had spent some of them more fruitfully.
The new year is a leap year with the gift of a whole extra day. You can do the math. It means a few extra minutes to cherish life and the people around us who make it meaningful. A few extra moments to spend on the things that really matter. There are 527,040 minutes ahead — at the end of the coming year let’s ensure that we have made them count.