Life from the Other End

I’ve never been able to imagine my life with more past than future. All I see is future. But, then sometimes I freak out about how little time I have to accomplish anything of significance.

Then I laze around all day, surfing the Internet, reading the newspaper, straightening my makeup collection—and suddenly the day is over, and I’m winding down by reading the newspaper and surfing the Internet.

Yeah, well, anyway, my point would be that my perception of time is warped.

Sometimes I feel rushed. I want to travel the world, write a book, become an editor of a major publication, buy and renovate a house, get married and start a family—all sometime in the next five years.

While I’m sitting there dreaming about how cool my life could be, I begin to waste my time regretting not having done things that I had the opportunity to do.

I wish I would have studied abroad in college. I wish I would have taken the time to earn a double major and added intercultural studies to my degree. I wish I would have had the guts to pursue art studies even though I’m no Picasso. And while time is frittering away as I think about my past regrets and my future dreams, I somehow am disconnected with the present.

I decide that my job could be better. I decide that I am only in transition, that this part of my life is only meant to prepare me for the future, and my present begins to lose its purpose. Suddenly my thoughts have taken me to a place of frustration. I’m not sure why I am working as a reporter at a weekly newspaper when it is not exactly where I want to end up. I can’t even figure out what I am doing living in Portland when I really want to travel the world.

It’s really not a fun place to be. It doesn’t happen to me all the time. But every now and then, I find myself staring at my computer screen wondering where else I could be. I flip between dreaming about what could be and reminiscing about what probably never was.

As Blaise Pascal said, “We never keep to the present. We … anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is … [We] think of how we are going to arrange things over which we have no control for a time we can never be sure of reaching … Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.”

In light of that, a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a new perspective on the timeline of life. What if I thought about life backwards? I mean, here I am thinking that I have regrets, but what would it be like to be 84?

My grandma is 84, and she has the attitude of the kind of old person I want to be some day. My roommate and I went to visit her a few weeks ago, and as I watched her and her friends play lawn bowling in their retirement complex, I was struck with why I admire her.

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She’s never stopped living. I went to church with her in the little chapel in her apartment complex and listened to her sing with the choir (which wasn’t exactly on pitch. I’m guessing that some of them can’t hear themselves anymore). It was beautiful.

After the service she said to me, “My voice is so scratchy now. But, what do you do? You just keep singing.”

The pastor talked about living. He challenged the congregation (98 percent of which was over the age of 75) to embrace every breath we have as if God has given it to us for a reason, whether we have more past than future or more future than past.

I think that’s the way I’m supposed to be living. But, it’s not always. Usually, I get so caught up in worrying about the next day, dreaming about the next year, recalling past mistakes or wishing for the simplicity of being five again that I forget about the only time I have: the present.

I don’t think there’s a one-time, world-changing solution to this. I think it’s a constant paradigm shift. It’s me allowing God to transform my thinking every day, asking Him to help me live in the reality of the present, never letting a moment go by that I don’t know my ultimate purpose.

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