I’ve been hit smack in the face by realities this past week. It’s as if the great and holy Universe has taken a lead bat to my teeth. Though I’ve grown strong over this year of trial, success and adventure, it still comes as a shock to realise that time is not on my side.
It’s only two and a half months, roughly, until I’ll be newly returned to Australia; a Germenglish speaking raggedy backpacker most-likely, with a bunch of new stuff to unpack, a job to search for and life to re-adjust to.
It’s three weeks until my Uni semester at Mannheim finishes. It’ll also soon be the five year reunion of my year 12 high-school class. It’s been fourteen years since the first Lord of the Rings movie was released.
Time just keeps marching on, so unbeknownst to all of us. It slips by us, stealthily and trying its damned best to avoid the notice of everyone before one day jumping and surprising you. “Haha, look at me, ya idiots! Look what I’ve done! Look how big and fat and amazing I am.” We all know it’s passing. We all know we can’t change it. We all try to do the best with what little we have and sometimes even wish it would flow by faster.
Time is a funny thing. It’s a commodity we crave, would crawl through broken glass to get more, but also something that we throw away on a daily, hourly basis. Thus all the maxims and idioms about time flying and live life like it was your last day on Earth etc. etc.
The only one of these I’ve found true though, or at least the one I found helpful in keeping my brain in one in a solid state and not leaking slowly out of my nose, is that you should live in the present. We’re never going to have more time. We’re never going to have less time. No matter what you do, how much you waste it or how productive you are, you’re still going to have the same amount of time. You have the present. You have now.
It’s comforting, but also challenging. This sort of thinking can easily get you in the mindset of “I need to be doing something every single second of the day. I need to canoeing in Vanuatu at five thirty or buying stocks at midnight,” but that is quite harmful. We need time to slow down. We need balance. We can’t fire on all cylinders all the time, trying to outrun time itself. We burn out like any engine overworked. Like I always say: you need balance in your life, and accepting boredom or times of relaxation isn’t always a sign of weakness. As long as your living in the moment, realising that your alive and experiencing existence, then you can find some sort of peace. At least, that’s what I think.
Sure it’s difficult for many of us and downright impossible for some. Sometimes we can get in head-spaces where we don’t want to exist in the present, that we want to somehow skip forward to a better, greener time or backwards to a more comfortable one. But it remains true that the only time we have is the present. Focusing on the past and dreaming for the future can be helpful and comforting, but our lives in the now are more important. If you’re sitting in your underwear licking Pringle dust off your fingers, if you’re blasting down the Italian coastline on a god-challenging beast of a motorcycle, if you’re running a company worth billions, or if you’re reading this blog, you’re alive and present.
But that doesn’t always come as a comfort, does it? It’s hard to be present and mindful all the time, unless you’re very highly trained or naturally zen. It’s fair enough to be surprised by the passing of time, I know I certainly have been recently. It’s even okay to be scared of the future, as long as you don’t let it control you. The cliché argument that “courage is not the lack of fear, but the acceptance of it while still moving forward” is actually pretty applicable to life. We don’t know what the future will hold, whether it will be great or terrible, but we go forward anyway. We can’t do anything else… until someone finally converts a DeLorean properly.
And what about the time we think we’ve wasted? What about all the regrets that we have? Well… you just have to accept it. You have to realise that every moment of your life in the past, every success and every failure, has mathematically and spiritually turned you into the person you are in the present. You wouldn’t be who you are, the world would not be the same, if you hadn’t made the choices you did or survived the things you survived. There is no sense in regret. You will move on. You will eventually come to terms with the past and forgive it. You will look at the future.
It doesn’t matter if you see your current glass as half full or half empty. What matters is that the glass can be refilled in the future.
While regret is pointless and harmful, gratitude, forgiveness and positive reflection are incredibly healthy for the soul. I’ve been counting my blessings as much as I can in recent times, and come to the conclusion that I really haven’t done that bad at all. I’ve conquered a lot of personal troubles, created a lot that I am proud of, been recognised in academia and the professional world, had my thoughts broadcast to the world, met and created relationships with the people of that very same world, become a competent and organised adult, taken great steps in my career, experienced some of the world’s greatest art, moved 15,000 kilometers away from home and even released a few albums of god-awful experimental noise music that at least two or three people listened to.
I used to think I didn’t have much going for me, that I was a loser and a failure because someone out there had more Facebook friends than me, or got their drivers licence earlier, or fell in love sooner, owned a house in their early twenties or got their dream job straight out of high school. But I’ve decided I’m going to go back to my high school for the reunion this year happy with myself and with no regrets about the past five years. I’m going to go in confident, knowing that I’ve had an amazing half-a-decade and that every challenge I’ve faced has made me the person I am today.
And you can do the same! Refill your glass and toast.