Like so many kids, I just wanted to be older.
I dreamt of being thirteen when I was seven, being sixteen when I was twelve, being twenty-one when I was eighteen, being twenty-five (and with my shit together) when I was twenty-two. I looked ahead every chance I got, already forgetting what was behind me, and simultaneously failing to notice my current surroundings. I had clichéd fights in high school with my parents, slamming doors and scrawling in my diary, “I can’t wait to get the f*ck out of this town.”
Of course time moves faster as we get older – an ironic joke that seems to be played on all of us, perhaps as revenge for all the wishing and rushing we did when we were young. Our teenage years disappear into bottles and notebooks, marked by blurred mascara and smudged lipstick. Our twenties become a blur of city lights, rushing trains, falling in love. And as we approach thirty, it’s like we are digging our heels into the sand, pulling on that emergency break, our mouths all forming the collective sound of one word: Wait.
Throughout all those years of peering desperately into the future, there’s actually one simple thing we’ve failed to get wrong – when we get there, we will be exactly the same as we’ve always been.
I’ve already surpassed the somewhat dreaded and simultaneously feared marker of 3-0 but surprise! I still feel 29. I still feel 25. 20. 15. 10, even. Another one of time’s pranks, made at our expense. There are days when I want nothing more than to wake up in my childhood bedroom at home, have my mom make breakfast for me, watch cartoons all morning, and play outside with my best friend who lived down the street.
In some way, if I woke up there, I’d believe it. I’d say to my mom – “I just had the craziest dream.” And then I’d eat a pop-tart and not feel bad about the calories because I didn’t know what calories were.
The grass is always greener.
Of course, this is nothing new. Our elders warned us, didn’t they? Our moms and dads told us not to rush our life away, our teachers told us to be young while we were actually young, and everyone who has been through the same story comes away with the same warning – time goes faster than you think. And the catch-22 is right now, in our late twenties and early thirties, we are still young, but we feel so old, so tired, so experienced.
(We will laugh at our current selves when we are 50. 60. 70.)
But our mistakes are universal, and I suppose we were predestined to have all these same flaws as generations prior. It’s almost inevitable that our minds and hearts will yearn for the unknown void ahead, that we will grow bored with our present and look to the future for something better.
And then we do the opposite dance – we look backwards through rose-colored glasses, remembering the past in snippets of photographs and journal entries. We bathe in nostalgia, we post Throwback Thursday pics, we make lists of what it was like to be a ‘90’s kid. We cling to ideas that we remember as better than they actually were.
The second wave of irony of course is that we are still missing the “now.” Whether we are looking forward or looking back, we aren’t looking here. Today. This. Even me, right now, writing this, filling my mind with memories of sidewalks and breakfast pastries, I’m not noticing anything.
We don’t notice anything.
So- what if we band together, as a generation of people who generally feel lost, to break this cycle? What if we agree to put a moratorium on internet-induced time traveling and put more of an emphasis on today?
If we did that, could we avoid the inevitable nostalgia that waits for us in another decade? Could we avoid feeling like we do now, like we missed out on something because we were distracted by time?
Maybe we will always feel like this- like all of our previous selves are rolled up into one. Maybe when we are grandparents, we’ll still feel 10 years old. We’ll still feel wild inside. And I kind of hope we do.
But I hope we don’t regret the direction of our thoughts, or where we looked. I hope we don’t look back and think, “I wish we paid more attention.”
I hope we don’t regret missing our own lives. I hope we can fix it in time. I hope we just notice the world, while it’s ours.