TW: Mortality/death mention.
Happy Spring, everyone! Have you seen the movie, “Soul?” I watched it around Christmas primarily to see beautifully designed, black animated characters. But, as Disney and Pixar would have it, I walked away with so much more.
At the end of 2020, I made a video about 20 lessons I learned from the year. Several of those lessons revolved around the appreciation I gained for time and daily life. Yet even as I write this, I am focused on what I am going to do with the days off I took next month, and stressing over finances, and trying to plan out my next series of hairstyles so I am prepared for the warm weather. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with that–we are stuck in the house with our thoughts, so we occupy that thinking space with ideas that bring us joy, excitement, anything outside of the mundanity we have been experiencing for the last year. I sometimes feel the way I did when I was unemployed in 2016 and part of 2017 just thinking the next day would be “the day,” and then looking up to see it’d been months of me doing the same thing every day. But what have I really learned if I continue to chase the future? I continue to operate as though time is guaranteed to me.
There are so many things in our world, especially in American culture, that always make us want to strive toward the next thing. In middle school, we want to be in high school to feel cool and be able to drive; in high school we want to be in college, so we can experience the propaganda we see in movies (a conversation for another day); in college, we want school to be over so we can work and make money to continue the fun lifestyle we lived in our bubbles; then finally, it’s grinding out every last morsel of energy and strength to make it to retirement. Do we REALLY believe that 1. we will retire at 65 and 2. we will have the energy to want to do anything we dreamed of at 23? There’s not a whole lot we can control right now and sometimes imagining the world in COVID-recovery is the little boost of serotonin we get every day. Hell, since last March, I would keep telling myself, “Every day, we’re one day closer to the vaccine,” and look where we are! But if I keep saying I want to live life to the fullest, I need to start actually reframing what that looks like for me instead of losing another year to waiting around. Sure, the beginning of my late 20’s will forever be stamped by this virus, but should I be fortunate enough to reach old age, I want more memories than that.
It is not morbid to have moments in which we recognize our mortality. I don’t walk around with the idea that my life could end tomorrow or at 35. The problem with chasing the future, however, is not taking advantage of what we have now and making the most of it: the ability to breathe properly, mobility, good health, and so on. This isn’t your standard PSA that big corporations have been running into the ground this last year about slowing down and appreciating the small things. While, of course, that is true, I just want to ask: What do you really remember about the last five years of your life? I recently wrote about how I want to be a present, active participant in my life and I really do mean that. It hasn’t been easy adjusting to a day-by-day mindset when I am so used to planning ahead, but I notice the small differences every day. The guilt of not feeling productive is slowly chipping away. Making purchases here and there don’t riddle me with stress over if it’s a good long-term investment. I’m monitoring my social media use to fight my impostor syndrome and fear of ‘running out of time’. Ultimately, I just hope that when I am able to get vaccinated and we start seeing significant shifts in our daily lives again to what we knew as ‘normal’ that I don’t forget how fortunate I am to have the life that I have. And that’s precisely why I’m doing the work now.
What are some things you remind yourself of as it feels we’re getting closer to ‘the other side’?