I stood in front a group of twenty-somethings this week and listened to them as they told me stories about love, life, and the small dramas that tend to find you when you are finding yourself. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own twenty-something experience, and as I did the Taylor Swift lyrics from her song 22 danced around my mind.
We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical.
She definitely was spot-on in summing up my twenties with that song. The chaos from a quarter century life crisis loomed over my fears back then, causing me to believe that I would never figure out what I was doing for a career, and that true romance just might not be in the cards for me, yet there was one issue that became prominent above the rest. I had no idea how to live in what author Eckhart Tolle labelled, “The Now.”
I am finally beginning to stop this vicious pattern of seeking the next high now that I am in my thirties. That high comes in many different forms, from new apartments, new cities, a new art project, new business ideas, etc. Now with technology at our finger tips it has given so many of us even more excuses to not be present in our own lives as we zone out in front of a smartphone screen with every lull in the day. So how do we take moments to ourselves to reflect on all we have learned? How do we take the time to just…be?
This week my son’s tenth birthday swiftly took me down memory lane contemplating how quickly his childhood is passing. So much a part of me still feels like the 27 year old who brought him into the world, yet ten years actually passed by and I question: did I savour it enough? Did I actually breathe in the miserable and the magical?
I looked into his growing eyes and made a vow to myself that the next ten years would be different, and that I would stop time by simply stopping, looking around, and devouring my own life and every detail. Embracing the simplicity of the little things.
Here is a poem I wrote the first year I taught in Korea when I was 22 years old. I sat in
the room teaching but continued to dream about being somewhere else until the innocence of one of the children I taught snapped me into “The Now.” She taught me about the beauty in even the smallest interactions that day.
I sat at the head of the class, as their busy minds were preoccupied with endless English vocabulary.
My back was so angry in cursed at me in a song of throbbing melodies.
Melodies that reminded me of the heaviest punk tunes.
Although I was present in a physical sense, my mind seemed to be elsewhere, and I wonder if it would ever join my body instead of constantly galloping through time like an untamed horse.
Past and future clouded my vision, making my current path appear like a rapid river of uncontrollable tides. These fantasies were drowning
My ability to swim amongst the experiences right before me.
What is happiness? What is love? Will I succeed?
Questions such as these played against the wall of my brain like a movie on repeat.
Soon I was snapped back into present time with the jerk of my sleeve.
“Sung-Sang-Nim (teacher in Korean), how do you spell animal?”
Two chestnut brown eyes stare up at me with all the trust in the world that “I” knew the answers.
As if the softest feathers ran up the pads of my feet, laughter began to shoot out my vocal cords.
A questionable look spread across the face of the young Asian beauty, who laughed along with me.
“Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?”
The question floated through the air and fell on the fully attentive child,
like soft winter snow flakes in a Canadian dream.
She smiled back at me, not fully understanding my question.
I was so grateful for her tiny hand reaching into the tornado of my mind and pulling me out to safety.
Innocence has a way of soothing what’s corrupt.
Suddenly I became centered once again.
The time travel I had journeyed on in those few moments became a slap in the face.
WAKE UP, and smell the beauty of now, before it all becomes a faded memory.
I wrapped my arms around the soft skinned ball of energy that enlightened me in a strange way I have never felt before.
Maybe…..she was the key to my souls unlocked door?
With that I tossed my dreams aside and decided to use my two eyes instead of the invisible one. I felt like the uncarved block of clarity when the answer came to me like a soothing whisper in my ear.
So easy, so obvious, and I spoke it out loud so I could share it with the one who had saved me.
I answered, “A-N-I-M-A-L.”