Had a startling realization yesterday: I don’t remember much.
I fail to remember moments that groups of friends take for granted. Old teammates of mine from middle school on through college remember specific games and practices, turning points, highlights, and bloopers while, for me, most of it is unavailable for recall. I bumped into a friend of mine recently and he reminded me of a double date we went on with two girls back in 2011; I could barely remember the girls’ names or faces, let alone what movie we saw or what the night was like. When I see old classmates of mine, they’ll reminisce about this teacher or that or what happened in the court yard that day, and I feel painfully unprepared to contribute anything to the reminiscence; I don’t remember shit!
I’ve noticed it for a while, sorta swept it under, deeming it unimportant. The more this realization has surfaced for me, however, the more unsettling and shameful it feels.
WHAT is going on? Where are these memories that have become a sort of shared history for old friends, teammates, classmates etc.? The problem is not to do with my brains’ capacity for retention. I’ve proved incredibly adept at retaining the information, images, and feelings that prove most compelling and/or useful to me. So, what could it be?
Well, a combination of things, to be sure, but if I may articulate the problem in a single phrase: I think I’ve spent my life not showing up. My body has been in places, and I’ve functioned well enough to get by, for the most part, but it’s starting to strike me that, perhaps, I’ve almost never BEEN wherever I AM. I’ve been absent. Out to lunch. And more than most people, I mean.
I can itemize my “accomplishments” and, when contextualized, they would give most people the impression of a highly driven, go getter of a guy. That is not to say that I am not ambitious, or driven. In fact I’d say it is that very quality that goes part in parcel with the reckoning that I haven’t been truly present for much because I’m so caught up with where I’m goin' that I’m never where I am.
We did an interesting exercise in class the other night where we were forbidden from discussing the past or future, in any form. All we could speak on what was going on in that moment. Not ten seconds ago, or five minutes from now, just NOW. Any utterance making any reference to the past or future was to be acknowledged as a violation of the rules of the exercise.
I’ve made a comfort zone out of a coveted future, and I’ve spent much of my life living in that place! A coveted future and a coveted self, worthy of occupying that future, rushing past the present and to the result, racing away from my experience and anything that could throw a wrench in my contrivances.
I spent my high school and college years preparing my skills and my body for my basketball future. Drilling myself, with feverish intensity, in the weight room, on the court, doing plyometrics, readying myself for a future that I don’t think I actually wanted to experience. I would have spent an eternity in preparation before ever letting the rubber meet the road. I refused to give myself to the game, refused to risk any of what I’d worked to create by exposing it to the realities of the game, the realities of the moment. I was on my way to my future, and the present presented a direct threat to that future and the self that could be/become worthy of that future. Engaging with the moment(s) the only way to get to the future I envisioned but, that path was unguaranteed and apparently, a risk I was unwilling to take.
It’s hard to face epiphanies that require you to admit that only could you have done better, but that cause you to think, "if only I could have applied that last week? Or to that thing two months ago? Or a year ago? OR..." Yea. You get it. Lost time.
Even the past three years of my acting endeavors, I would again describe as a feverish dash of sorts and, in fact, I imagine most would be hard pressed to concieve of how I could have compiled the resume I have in such a short amount of time. The time has been - on the one hand - incredibly busy, productive, and conducive to growth the likes of which I never could have foreseen and, on the other hand, have been a catalyst for some unnecessary frustration, irritability, and lashing out. My point is not a moral one, that we "shouldn't lash out," but rather that it is worth asking, "at what cost?" Were the feelings I induced worth the resume building?
I also question what may have been gleaned from that period had I made a more conscious effort to show up, to “allow myself to arrive,” as my wonderful teacher Lea Marlene would ask of us as we warmed up Even in a practically selfish sense, letting the world in - letting moments in - that disrupt one's precious "progress," create the opportunity for the work , the progress, to gain traction in reality, moment by moment. This is how you disrupt the serenity of the top soil and allow seeds to find purchase.
Life is short and I feel that I’ve missed years of my life racing away from it.
I’m tired of missing my life.
I’m tired of working for futures I don’t intend on inhabiting.
I’m tired of not being present enough to connect to anyone.
I’m tired of being so isolated.
I’m tired of not allowing myself the joys and sorrows of the present. of trading them in for the secondhand joys and sorrows of my imagined future.