Good days and bad days, all the same.
I imagine that for some readers I don’t have to explain the feeling that it’s going to be a bad day that presents itself immediately as I wake up. No reason for it, usually just leftover anxiety from a dream, or just a general feeling that something is wrong. That’s just anxiety. I also imagine that some of you reading this would call it much ado about nothing, that I should just buck up; happy is as happy does. Whatever. I’ve thought of it both ways, myself, and sometimes days can be both, or neither. Often these days, usually bad, are accompanied by a feeling of loss – that I would not feel this way if I had not made some mistake down the line, that if I could just go back in time, I could remember the thing that I was now missing and then I would feel content. That’s what I want to talk about.
Recently Miranda and I traveled to Washington D.C. – you know, seeing the sights, we live on the east coast now so why not? – and we went to the National Museum of American History. One of the displays contained a workbench from someone named Ralph Baer. I had never heard of Ralph Baer (though I’m sure everyone my age or older would recognize some of his inventions.) Although, looking at the bench, I realized that I recognized it. Not the actual bench, or really, anything specific on it, but the general organized clutter, the tools, the way children’s art was mixed in amongst the drawers, tools and circuitry. This was my dad’s workbench, where I spent many happy hours and formed some of my earliest memories. Certainly I would not be where I am today if it were not for the time spent there – the availability of new information, my dad’s willingness to explain things (even when most of it went over my head,) the learned pleasure of taking something broken and fixing it (often with questionable success.)
I think it is the drive to fix broken things that, at least in part, drives me towards introspection and therapy. This feeling of forgetting is terrifying, and even though I know that I am far from the only person in history to feel this way – one must only look to almost any book, movie, or other piece of art to know this – I feel that maybe I can find some secret to overcoming it. After all, that is pretty much how my extremely privileged, upper-middle-class life has gone until this point: for any problem I face, there is a solution to be found. If I fail, then it is because I made some wrong step and did not find, or properly execute, the solution. This isn’t the case here though, and I know it; it just is what it is.
These memories and feelings are with me always – Weird Al in my parents’ basement, homework on my dorm bed, talking to roommates in the kitchen months before we all moved out – these stay with me like ghosts, permeating my dreams, giving me cold sweats, bringing me tears. But what I am afraid of is not the past; what I am afraid of is that the past is gone. I was struck today with a tremendous fear of sliding along through time, burrowed in my own thoughts, miserable and unable to enjoy the present, waking up older and older but never remembering, never doing, never changing. I was not prepared for this, I did not know this feeling came so soon, I am only 24; my life is ahead of me, but already I feel so much is behind me, and ahead of me only a void.
Shortly after, Miranda and I emerged from the subway in Brooklyn and took a walk. On a whim we decided to eat at a hip-looking Chinese restaurant called Han Dynasty. I was reminded of a few brief minutes this week, when I, emerging from work, was smacked in the face by the first breath of fresh air New York City had had in months. I was reminded of summer nights in Minnesota, mosquitos, trees, running water; reading on my air mattress in Minneapolis with the window open, the tree fort, the lake walk with Miranda. I felt the weight of the world disappear and the future open up clearly – my future, travel and moving and jobs and pets and people – all of it, and I was ready.
I don’t always know what these memories mean or why they affect me so strongly, but lately I have been trying to remind myself that it is okay to remember, to be sad, to face mortality; it is enough to have just lived these things, and a gift to re-experience them through memory.