“Why should we be so afraid of the future? It’s just time. Isn’t it?”
-Felicity, Season 4 Episode 1, “The Declaration”
One of my favorite quotes goes something like this: “Time is funny, the way it has nothing to do with clocks.” I think about that quote a lot because I am mildly obsessed with time, and the fact that I can’t control it. Time rules everything around me. I’m constantly worrying about time- how much of it I have, how much I can accomplish within a certain amount of it, and how quickly it seems to be passing. I’m always marveling at how, when I watch 44 minutes of my favorite television show, it feels like four minutes, yet when I do 44 minutes of cardio, it feels like 44 hours. Why? The minutes are the same, the seconds are the same, but one feels so much longer than the other. And it’s always the miserable minutes that feel the longest. That’s why work days go by like weeks and the weekends fly by in seconds. I wonder if I will ever really know what 44 minutes actually feels like.
It seems as though I’ve spent my life counting down to one thing or another. Three years until I get to junior high, seven years until I graduate high school, etc. Time gets much harder to count the older you get, because the timeline for your life get less predictable. You can get your license when you turn 16 but when do you get married? When do you get your dream job, or meet the love of your life? When will you experience loss? As far back as I can remember I’ve been paranoid about losing those that I love, even though loss is inevitable where love is concerned. One of the most vivid memories I have from my childhood comes from a sleepover I had in my cousins’ basement. I was 11 years old, having a hard time falling asleep. I’ve always been the last to fall asleep, and still am the last to fall asleep in whatever house I am in. (Sometimes I wonder if maybe I am the last person to fall asleep anywhere.) My grandma used to stay up with me so that I wouldn’t get scared. She would tickle my back and tell me stories. In this particular basement memory, I am crying. Even at 11 years old, I am worried about time, and panicking about not having enough of it with my grandma.
“I don’t want you to die!” I sobbed.
She laughed a little, but I didn’t see what was so funny.
“I’m not going to die for a long time.” She said, stroking my hair.
“But how do you know that? How can you say that for sure?” I demanded.
“Shhhh,” her voice always calmed me down, but this time it wasn’t helping. “I’m not going anywhere,” she replied softly.
“But how much longer do we have? How many more years?” I demanded.
“You don’t need to worry about that,” was all she said. “I promise.”
Whether she was right or wrong, I felt like I absolutely needed to worry about it. I needed numbers, you see, an exact time line. I needed to know when I would have to say goodbye. I needed to know when I was going to have to be ready to be without her. I thought maybe if I had a number, I could prepare myself. I didn’t know then that there is no preparation for things like death, loss, or grief. When my grandma eventually died, I felt like a rug was pulled out from under me. The wind was literally knocked out of me. My vision blurred. My ears rang. Despite all of the counting and preparing I had done over the years, I was not ready. The stages of grief still reared their ugly heads. Sadness still consumed the weeks following her death. There is no relief in the early stages of grief, though I wish there were. It seems unfair that the only release we are offered from grief is time, because time is funny, time is sneaky, time is tricky. It’s pointless to put any trust in numbers, when numbers really have nothing to do with it. Life will always come at you fast, and take your breath away with it’s swiftness.
Though we can control how we spend our time, we cannot control the speed in which time moves. When we look ahead time seems far away, yet when we look behind, we have a hard time understanding where our time has gone. I’m far past the age of graduations, I’m now at the age I always feared as a child, where the people I love are getting old. Some of them are sick, some are already dead. I dreaded these days, and now here they are. I am living them. Some of them, I have already lived. Days where I had to say goodbye to grandparents, or watch a member of my family endure chemotherapy. As I child I didn’t understand that I would never be prepared for something so cruel and sudden. Looking back now, it seems ridiculous to me that I spent so many years counting, because when it came right down to it, my math was always off. Despite my desperate attempts, I can’t slow time down to give myself more of it with those I love. Time moves forward, and so must I. In the end, whether you’re given 7 or 78 years with those you love, it will never feel like enough. That’s why it’s best to live your life as boldly as you can, with those you love in the time you’re given with them. Spend less time lost in your phone and engage in conversation with the people around you instead. I totally get it, social media is fun, and it’s addicting. There’s so much to see on the internet. Sometimes we can even learn things on the internet, or meet new people there. Everything in moderation, as they say. There are lots of ways to spend our time that aren’t necessarily “bad” for us, but are we really spending our time the best way that we can?
Because I can get caught up when thinking about time, I try to live as much in the present as I can. This is very hard for me because I struggle with depression and anxiety. Anxiety was once described to me as living in the future, while depression is living in the past. I totally get that. My anxieties are at an all-time high when I am thinking about the future. Especially when you’re young, there’s so much uncertainty out there to torture yourself with. What will I do for my career? What if I don’t pass my class? When will I meet my future spouse? WHAT IF I HAVE ALREADY MET HIM BUT I DUMPED HIM BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE THE WAY HE CHEWED HIS FOOD??? My heart is racing just thinking about these things, and they aren’t even my reality right now! And what about when we are most depressed, what are we thinking about? I wish I had been more outgoing in high school. Man, remember how fun high school was? I wish my life was that fun now. Now I just have to pay bills and worry about “real life” problems. Things were really great for me when Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield were together. Why do you think they broke up? I sure used to be skinny, my life was so much easier then. REMEMBER WHEN JOHN MAYER AND KATY PERRY WENT TO DISNEYLAND TOGETHER??? See how fast we can go down the rabbit hole of depression?? Everyone take a deep breath now. Eat some protein, drink a little water, and recharge yourself.
To me, living in the present means enjoying my life as it is RIGHT NOW, and appreciating every blessing that I have, but wow that is hard sometimes. I don’t want to be the kind of person who envies people younger than she is. I don’t want to be the kind of person who holds back laughter or expression to reduce the amount of lines in her face. I don’t want to be the kind of person who dreads birthdays, or lies about her age. I want to be the kind of person who enjoys every year of her life because there is something to be enjoyed in every day, and something new to look forward to in every decade. I want to be the kind of woman who isn’t afraid to show her emotions, happy or sad. I want to be the kind of woman who is strong and independent, but not so much that she can’t admit when she is wrong. I want to be a person who is always looking ahead and moving forward with faith. Life moves differently for those that live in the past, looking back at what they have or haven’t done. When we look forward, it makes life feel longer, worries seem smaller, and anything seems possible.
I used to think that being a grown up meant getting my driver’s license or having a boyfriend, but then when I finally did those things, I realized that I wasn’t grown up at all. With every year I got older, my definition of “grown up” changed. Sometimes it meant paying my own bills. Sometimes it meant getting a job. Sometimes it meant sacrificing vacations or parties for work. I don’t know if I will ever have a full understanding of what it means to be a grown up. It seems like no matter where I am in life, I feel like I’m falling short. Maybe that’s what being a grown up is; realizing that you’ll never be perfect, but trying anyway. Maybe it’s recognizing when you have something. Maybe it’s being strong when all you want to do is shut down and cry. Maybe it’s being able to eat popcorn at 11:00 at night, or having cold pizza for breakfast. Maybe it’s being a mom or a dad. Maybe it’s being an aunt or an uncle. Maybe it’s burying someone you love. Maybe it’s saying goodbye even when you don’t want to. Maybe it’s time, maybe it’s knowledge, maybe it’s both.
My mind often moves at a speed which my soul cannot keep up with, and my heart moves at a speed my mind cannot fathom. I wish for consistency and balance between the three, but my wishing does not breed results. I was once told by someone I love and admire that I need a war. I thought I knew what she meant, so I went searching for one. I’m just now starting to realize that she didn’t mean for me to look for one, she meant for me to start one. The war isn’t outside, but inside myself. Heart. Mind. Soul. The challenge is not to declare a winner, but to make peace with all three. Maybe on the inside I’m still that 11-year-old, staying up past my bedtime, counting the days and years on my fingers, hoping and praying that I have some kind of control over the people that I love and their time here. Eventually I’ll accept that I don’t, and I’ll roll over and fall asleep. Until then, there’s always pizza for breakfast.