I’m going to go ahead and be upfront: this post may read as if it lacks in structure. If it comes off as a bit of a ramble, that’s because it is, and those who know me best are familiar with my propensity for a good ramble.
It will be my birthday in a few days, upon which I will turn twenty-nine. Over the course of the past year, it has not been uncommon for people to ask me whether or not I have any feelings about the approaching age of thirty. I do, and here are a few thoughts on the subject of aging.
Many people view arriving at the ages of thirty, forty, fifty, and sixty in a negative light. No one really cares about turning twenty because then it still seems as if there is a lot of time ahead, and you rarely hear people complaining about turning seventy or eighty or even older because at that point they’ve lived a long life and they’re simply amazed and content with the fact that they’re still alive. But for some reason, those middle-age milestones really worry people.
In some regards, it’s an understandable concern—you see your time getting shorter while you have a list of things you still want to accomplish, but at the same time the responsibilities that come with age increasingly set in, and it becomes ever more apparent that you might not have the time to do everything you’ve always dreamed.
While it is true that each one of us has a finite amount of time in which to achieve all of these dreams, if we are serious about wanting to go on the big trip, learn to do the whatever, or create the such-and-such, then we’ve got to look at the time constraint problem from a whole different angle. The problem is not with the lack of time, but in how we choose to use what time we have.
The Problem with Putting Things Off
People tend to view time as a very real thing. If we feel that we don’t “have enough” of it to do that thing we’ve always wanted to do today, then we will hopefully “have enough” to do it later.
This is wrong—we never “have” any time. Can you put your arms around it, or point it out? In reality, all we have is a series of moments which we live through one after another. Over the course of our entire lives, we will never have “more” or “less” than that moment. Each moment is always the same duration, which is to say, timeless, without beginning or end. (We are cramming this concept into a nutshell for brevity’s sake, and I will expand upon it in the future.)
Because we mistakenly view time as a real thing of which there will be more later, we put off our goals and dreams with the hopes that when that “more time” comes in the future we’ll finally have a chance to get to them. But the time never comes, and so our dreams go unfulfilled.
There’s No Time BUT the Present
People are very good at mortgaging their present moment against an illusory future. In a sense, many people are time-misers, hoarding up their “now” out of some strange belief that once they have amassed enough of it they will finally have all the time needed to write the great American novel, visit the Great Barrier Reef, or pursue the job they’ve always wanted. But this results in a contradiction—we think that by putting things off for the future we are somehow better preparing ourselves, but at the same time we feel that we have less and less time and our opportunities to fulfill our dreams are slipping away.
Most people seem to intuitively realize the necessity to take action and make better use of their moments. It’s why we have so many sayings such as “There’s no time like the present” or “You’ve got to live in the now”. It’s why we feel sheepish when we realize that we have passed up on a momentary opportunity by adhering to what we consider our long-term goals. “Gosh, I could have gone on that amazing adventure, but who would have stayed back here to tend to my career?” Then we tell ourselves that someday the career will make room for the adventure, that we’ll strike out into the world when we have more time, and with each passing moment we in fact have less and less. It’s a tricky contradiction.
Charging Headlong into the Moment
I’m going to cut through a lot of verbose rhetoric and put it simply—take action, now and in every moment. Stop putting your dreams on hold. And remember that an object in motion tends to stay in motion. By pushing yourself to achieve a few of your smaller goals, you’ll find yourself getting a taste for it, and soon you’ll be amazed at how much you end up accomplishing.
In a few days I will be twenty-nine and one year later I will be thirty. In the past six years alone I have spent significant amounts of time in Paris, Barcelona, Granada, Seattle, Portland, Olympia, Bellingham, San Francisco, and in dozens of other towns and cities. I’ve worked as a bartender, venue promoter, bouncer, cook, and then launched a successful writing career. I’ve been homeless, lived in an apartment with a view of both the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, and have spent several periods of months on end living in a tent in the middle of the woods. I was in a band that played more than 300 shows in two years and released an album. I’ve learned then forgotten French, learned, forgot, then relearned Spanish, and can cheers a round of drinks in at least five more languages. I’ve made friends from all over the world, have fallen in and out of love, and once I knocked out a would-be mugger.
How do I feel about getting older? Fantastic! If the past few years have been like all of that—so filled with realized dreams, fruitful relationships, and wild adventures—what will the next few bring? I look forward to finding out.
I can expect things to continue in the same fashion as long as I stay willing to apprehend the opportunities presented by now rather than constantly looking forward to time that will never come and doesn’t exist.
What are your goals? And what are you waiting for?