A year ago today I was out of work.
Eight years ago today I was graduating from high school.
X years ago I was in Kindergarten, learning how the earth revolves around the sun by acting it out; spinning in circles while rounding a fellow classmate.
As humans, we look back, consider the past. Sometimes it’s a good thing: to marvel at the inch marked in the door frame that displays how far we’ve come. We braid hair that— not long ago— wasn’t long enough to entwine, pull tight the locks like flexed muscles because it often takes all the strength in the world to just let something grow.
Sometimes it’s bittersweet or simply bitter, measuring the space between the you of now and the you that you wish you could get back to. We never say out loud, Today is the anniversary of the day I quit having quit cigarettes or the anniversary of the day he/she left me, but the truth of it skulks under the porch of our breath. (Remember the time I blew the biggest soap bubble and for a moment, before it popped, I held it on a plastic wand and thought it might last forever?) We remember that which we accomplish but scarcely remember the fear that prefaced it. We think back to a time when we thought ourselves brave, even if we actually weren’t. We stretch the truth to fit our needs. When we mark our height, we throw on an extra quarter inch for good measure. We nestle into the fiction of our selective memory: tell ourselves that we’ll go to the gym after this last episode on Netflix; that we’re never to blame for our lateness; that everything would be better if we could go back to that perfect summer.
Live in the present? Carpe Diem? Who has the strength to live every die like it might be your last? Or worse to recognize the fact that we waste our days because we know that it’s not? When we live in the present, when we really recognize all that ALL is, we feel guilty for not appreciating it more; for not constantly seizing the day. Instead, we distract ourselves by reminiscing. We hold tight to memories of marathons we ran years ago or old trophies now caked in dust. We console ourselves for being inactive or flawed in the present with the notion that at least there was a shining glory for us in the past.
When we’re not looking back on who we once were, we are fixated on the closed door of what comes next, hoping everything we want could still someday be. It’s less scary when the door stays closed, when potential disappointed hasn’t yet been fed. Door wide open, the frame is shamed and real: an empty-handed magician’s hat, an exposed Wizard of Oz, a child that becomes a man and stops growing.
We hit the snooze button again and again because maybe, ten minutes later, now will be a little less nowish. We postpone the alarm of reality and by returning to sleep we pray to wake a bit more rested, taller, bolder, more blameless. We pray to find regret as a world that no longer revolves around us but one that might spin and spin ‘til it dizzily rolls away.