Sometimes I feel as though there is a thick, milky fog all around me. It obscures my vision, it’s deafening, it reduces all touch to something felt through thick, padded gloves. And while, on a purely objective level, I can realize that there are amazing things happening in my life — this fog often prevents me from letting them in, from allowing myself to appreciate and understand the magnitude of them. Even things as simple as my youth, my surroundings, the wonderful people who have come to be in my life — things that should be the baseline of one’s happiness and fulfillment — can sometimes feel distant, even absent.
We spend months, years, saving up for trips that we’ve dreamed about since we were young. We covered our rooms with posters of these far-off cities and spent hours looking up every last detail about these places that, though we haven’t yet been to, we’ve already fallen in love with. And then we go — we pack our bags, we board the plane, we land in a new country — and it all happens in a kind of blur. We get there, and it’s as though we cannot fully soak up the joys of finally being where we always dreamed of. That fog, surrounding us, keeps us from realizing that we’ve actually done it, that we’re here.
Friends and family who have weathered storms of our less glamorous, less easy-to-understand moments, who have supported us and loved us with the kind of openness that is only so easy to forget, often get pushed to the side. We can allow ourselves weeks, months, even frigid years of not truly giving them the time they deserve. It’s not until they’ve faded far enough out of our lives to be a speck on the horizon that we realize, Oh, God, we should have paid more attention.
Or we finally make the move that we’ve waited for years to do, to the Big City with its late hours and possibilities that may end in any number of disappointing ways, but for a few hopeful years, is the Mecca of youthful promise. Soon enough, though, we’ll pass by the monuments that once took our breath away and only give it a passing glance, disdainful of the tourists and the traffic and the noise. Not until someone comes to visit us, until someone makes us stop in the street and appreciate the history, the architecture, and the vibrant colors that surround us, will we actually realize it’s there. The homes we once dreamed of have become as boring and predictable as a rerun of a sitcom you never enjoyed in the first place.
Even love, that thing we spend so much of our lives planning for and dreaming about, the thing after which we model our future without even being 100 percent certain it will ever come to fruition — is easily pushed aside. We find someone who loves us for who we are, who wants to see us in our pajamas while bed-ridden with the flu, red and sweaty and every shade of unattractive, and we forget how precious this person truly is. We allow ourselves to believe that their patience and dedication means they will be around forever, that they no longer need the attention and spontaneity of new infatuation. Their love becomes a happiness that we are numbed to — the fog surrounds us, choking our ability to feel from the inside out.
But what is this fog, this blasé indifference towards all of the joys and opportunities we are afforded? We — the young, the so-privileged-as-to-be-numbed-to-it, the ones with their whole lives ahead of them, documenting every moment they experience without feeling it — cannot see past this mist. I often fear that it might be the vague but persistent notion that we don’t deserve it. The idea that youth is wasted on the young has become so trite as to lose all functional meaning, but is it possible that we do not yet know how to love ourselves enough to love everything else worth appreciating in our lives?
There is often this nagging notion when receiving gifts of fate, and even those of our own hard work, that at some point, the rug will be swept from underneath us — that all this happiness will be given to some nameless person who has certainly earned it more. We keep ourselves at a palpable distance from our joys because, should we come to rely on that warm feeling of blessed complacency, we will be easily knocked off our pedestal. Better to keep one foot permanently on the ground, we seem to think, even if it means we can never experience the highs of time well-spent. This concept of not deserving the lovely things that happen in our lives is one that can eat at us, gnaw away at our perception until we’re left questioning the purpose of anything in our lives at all.
So perhaps the most important thing to do every day is to take a moment or two to simply consider all of the things that are happening to you, in this moment, at this location, with these people, that are worth remembering. The things that make life special, that make you feel loved, and that may not ever be reproduced in this lifetime. It is simply too easy to be perpetually focused on what isn’t working, what isn’t fair, what isn’t fun — but just like the flowers we so often let die in the pots by our windows, the things we love need attention, need to be fostered, and we deserve to see them grow.