In 5th grade, that three hour car ride to summer camp seemed like an eternity, and now being stuck in rush hour traffic for almost two hours is routine. Why is that though? Why does it seem like summer was endless in grade school and now it goes by in a blur? Summer is an interesting span of time. Pouring myself into my work was the easiest way to stay numb to how lost I felt this past summer: lost socially, emotionally, psychologically, and existentially. Filling my day with anything I could think of helped pass the time, but there were still those leftover moments; those impossibly long and empty moments that could have lasted for an hour or years in my mind, with the tick of each passing second echoing in the silence. My friends from school and home continued on their academic paths or with their internships, unaffected by my lack of presence in their day to day. Time seemed to forget me.
I had never really thought about it with any depth until I heard a line from a movie that had been playing in the background while I sat at the kitchen table staring blankly at my Financial Accounting assignment. After this line, I rewound to the beginning and watched the entirety of what is now one of my favorite movies: Meet Joe Black starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt. No this isn’t a plug
style="text-indent: 36pt; background-color: transparent; font-family: Arial; color: #444444; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">. In the film, Hopkins plays Bill Parish, a media mogul nearing his 65th birthday who plays host to Brad Pitt’s anonymous character, a man’s body inhabited by Death. He strikes a deal to show Death why humans cling to life and why they are so troubled by letting go. In exchange, he gets more time on Earth, knowing it will run out on his birthday. Of course it’s a movie, so Death falls in love with Parish’s daughter and experiences heartache when he also must leave and realizes he can’t take her with him, and plenty of other deep moments of emotion and struggle, blah blah blah. To be expected.
The one line of dialogue that changes the entire point of the film is Parish’s speech at the end of his extravagant birthday celebration. He gets choked up (after rarely showing emotion in the film) upon seeing his daughter's smile and how happy she looks. Taking a step back to gather himself he states that he hopes they all can experience what it feels like to wake up one day and to not want anything more. To be completely happy. His finals words before walking away to meet Death, awaiting him on the bridge, are these: “65 years....Don’t they go by in a blink.” I thought about that for a while. Why do the years seem to fly by? Why does it seem like pain lessens with
the passing of time? Why were those car rides to camp so damn long? I have recently had my fair share of sadness, grief, and heartache, with everyone reassuring me that “time will heal”. All that would echo in my mind was, “Yeah, but time hasn’t passed yet so that doesn’t exactly help me right now.”, that was until this summer. Once I looked at it this way, it became much easier to keep my eyes on the horizon and my head above water.
At 10 years old, one year makes up 10% of your life. At 20 years old, one year makes up 5% of your life. So even though the years are never a different length it absolutely feels like it’s going faster, because it makes up a smaller percentage of your life. I took this approach to what was bothering me and causing me to struggle and to feel emotional pain. Intellectually I understood that in one week I would be starting a new adventure and those troubles will be far from my mind. But it is living through those weeks that seemed like hell. As someone who looks at the facts and often times doesn’t let himself open up or feel vulnerable, this realization was exactly what I needed.
Waking up every day was a daunting moment. I would lay there and already hate the day. I would prefer to stay numb to it and lashed out at people trying to help me do the things I needed to, because from my perspective, they just didn’t understand. But at the end of the day, they will never understand. It’s a truth we need to face: nobody can understand the pain you could be feeling because you are something unique, with unique experiences and values. They can never fully grasp it. The good news is, that wasn’t the important part. The person who needed to understand it was me.
style="line-height: 1.2954545454545454; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-indent: 36pt; text-align: left;" dir="ltr">Now when I wake up, I remember that although it doesn’t seem like much of a measurable change, this day will be slightly easier for me. It isn’t necessarily dependent on me maturing or healing, it is an objective fact. This day will dilute the days filled with pain even if by an imperceptible amount. Every day will cause that period of sadness to shrink and make up less of my life than it did the day before, until days arrive like this one where I can finally exhale and say,”I made it through”. No matter what is bothering you: a friend or loved one dying, being cheated on or broken up with, or whatever may be tearing you up inside or weighing you down, that is something to remember. Every day will get easier. This idea can really help quell the flow of negative thoughts that race through someone's mind while they are alone. It gives you something to look forward to while trying to fall asleep.
To those days I spent paralyzed with anxiety, being consumed by the feeling of not being whole, struggling to stay positive when it seemed like nothing was helping, there is only one thing I hold in my mind when I look back at you from this bridge: I’m glad I learned from you. Didn't you go by in a blink.
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