It’s been one year since this pandemic madness changed our lives.
In my social media sphere, there was a reflection taking place. People were taking stock of their lives and writing about where their journey began to the present moment.
It was similar to before and after photos, but in words. We’ve all received one gift this past year that we desperately can’t afford to waste — the awareness of time. How meaningful and precious it is. This manifested in different ways for everyone. How are we spending our time in day-to-day life? Is our time being wasted in little increments everyday?
Perhaps, someone is thinking about time spent on a job or career that’s soul destroying for them? God forbid, maybe someone received this reminder tragically in losing a loved one.
The underlying message here is being consciously aware of time passing instead letting it slip by everyday like sand in an hourglass. Once you’re awake, it’s hard to go back to sleep. As much as “returning to normal” has been the main goal, in this aspect, I hope we don’t return to that place.
We always need to stay cognizant of our time. It’s our most valuable resource. We need to recognize the worth it holds. If time could physically be bought and traded like coffee, tea and oil, it would be the most valuable commodity on the planet.
From the time we’re kids, this idea gets reinforced through school, that life, somehow, always starts on a later date. “Real life” is just out of reach like the sun setting on a ridge in the distance.
In entering middle school, a big school assembly would occur where administrators and instructors would emphasize that “we weren’t in elementary school anymore” and this was when life actually gets serious. This always seemed to happen anytime a class would act up or begin to get out of hand.
This philosophy was echoed throughout my academic life. In high school, the point was made again about middle school. In college, many instructors reiterated this same idea. “This is not high school. This is serious.”
This continues as we progress through age brackets. Similar jargon is repeated about getting older. Obviously, the gravity and responsibility of life increases as time goes by. However, this is a dangerous mindset in the long run. A person can go through their whole life on a track, just following the GPS, never being OK with getting lost. This is not a new concept, as demonstrated by Hunter S. Thompson in an excerpt of an essay he wrote for his high school yearbook in 1955. The essay was titled, “An Open Letter to the Youth of Our Nation.”
“Young people of America, awaken from your slumber of indolence and hearken to the call of the future! Do you realize you are rapidly becoming a doomed generation? Do you realize that the fate of the world and generations to come rests on your shoulders? ... Oh ignorant youth, the world is not a joyous place. The time has come for you to dispense with the frivolous pleasures of childhood and get down to honest toil until you are 65. Then and only then can you relax and collect Social Security and live happily until the time of your death. Signed fearfully and disgustingly yours, John J. Righteous Hypocrite.”
When something as monumental as COVID radically changes our lives overnight, all of that conditioning begins to evaporate. We are only left with our thoughts. Sure, we distract ourselves by watching the latest Netflix movie, starting another video game or making another loaf of banana bread.
But deep down, we knew what that truth was, good or bad. Dave Chappelle explained this perfectly on the Joe Rogan Experience #1567.
“People are stuck in a house with their choices. Do you like your house? Do you like who you’re with? Well, you better like them because you’re stuck with them.”
This extends beyond just physical possessions or romantic relationships. It’s also about our mentality. How did you respond to this situation?
Personally, I have my answer to that question. Not well. I had to be thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool just to learn how to be comfortable with myself. Thankfully, I came out relatively unscathed. There is no guarantee. There’s no “aha” moment after finding where life actually starts.
It begins at the first breath, ends with the last one. Breathing in, breathing out. Everything in life is a cycle. We have all built houses on shifting sands of impermanences. The future and the past are concepts. The only true experience we can rely on is the present moment. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is right now.