This past week, I celebrated my twenty-ninth birthday, marking the beginning of the final year of my first adult epoch. That seems an odd thing to celebrate. Our twenties are generally thought to be characterized by curiosity, eagerness, openness, and naivety. And mine has certainly been all of those. We are constantly seeking to learn, seeking to experience. These are our university years. These are the years that we seek to discover a career to keep us engaged and prosperous for the rest of our lives. But wow, it truly is always the case that everything seems to have flown by in retrospect. The good, the bad, the fear, the stress, the love, the passion, and everything else.
With each passing year, I have more context on which to base judgement of how life is progressing. I’m now further away from the start but still rapidly spinning forward at the constant, unceasing pace of twenty-four hour periods. Everything behind me seems both extraordinarily distant and so immediately recent that I can still smell it. How are we to find words that wholly encapsulate this oddness with simple descriptive adjectives and analogies? Isn’t it truly more of a feeling, an emotion to be described and understood by those who can empathize? “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? Its the too-huge world vaulting us, and its goodbye. But we learn forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” (Jack Kerouac)
There are still so many goals to accomplish, places to visit, people to meet. But I am becoming more and more aware that before I know it, I’ll be 30 and then 60 and then in the blink of a lifetime, I’ll be gone. I did not have that awareness five years ago. Will I have lived as Kerouac’s mad ones? Will I have been “desirous of everything at the same time, have never yawned or said a commonplace thing?” Will I have had “anything to offer anybody except my own confusion?” Do I now? Have I already?
Time is running out for us to become the people we’ve decided to be, to make the difference we seek to make. It takes a foresight of which paths are simply dead ends and which are worth pursuing. It takes a conscious proactivity. But it also takes a constant balance against the awareness that you’ll never again be so youthful and able as you are today. It truly is a balancing act. Forever. There is no finish line, no grand prize. Assuming anything otherwise “is palpably absurd, and since the task is never achieved, the individual is taught to live and work for some future in which the impossible will at last happen, if not for him, then at least for his children. We are thus breeding a type of human being incapable of living in the present – that is, of really living. For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax… You will never, never be able to sit back and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it had been preparing you for the future instead of showing you how to be alive now. ” (Alan Watts)
But what other option do you have? Treating life like a lazy river, coasting around and around the same scene, seeing just one little bit of the whole over and over again just so we can say we’re living in the present? That seems no option at all. So our forward momentum persists. We make the most of our present one twenty-four hour period at a time. Some periods we commit to investing in some assumed future period, some we spend holding desperately onto each passing second. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” (Hunter S. Thompson) That should be all of our goals, but the artistry is in the balance.
Regardless of how each period is spent, what seems most important is that we spend each with intent. With cognition and purpose. Each plus one added to our count of days should remind us that there is truly “no such thing as spare time. No such thing as free time. No such thing as down time. All you have is life time. Go.” (Henry Rollins). Go now. What are we waiting for? Why do so few of us understand this? There have been and will always be infinite reasons to not do a thing, but opportunities are rarely open and endless, rarely patient. There are not always next chances.
You may ask yourself, what can you do? “So what now? Don’t waste your days on the negative energy of others. Remember that you’re not your salary, you’re not your car, you’re not your house, and no matter how big your bank account is, your grave will be six feet under just like everyone else’s. So enjoy the days your have, worry not about the days that came before you, nor the ones that will follow you in death. Remember that right here in this moment is all you’re guaranteed. And the fact the you are living is what life is all about, so live your life to the fullest for your happiness and the betterment of all those important to you.” (Logic)
They say age is only a number, to which I understand and agree with the intended sentiment. However, it’s hard to not place so much focus on age, when we’ve been conditioned our entire lives to measure our value and progress against the predetermined societal milestones which are meant to discern a life’s subjective worth. I’m sure for the next year, I’ll mill all of this over numerous times. But what’s most important is that I’m here now thinking and typing and smiling. I know not what tomorrow nor ten thousand tomorrows will bring. Whatever it is, the one certainty is that it’ll be here before I know it.
Citations: Is it any wonder that so many named others have pondered and mused similarly? Many quotes here from Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Watts, Henry Rollins, Seth Godin, Logic