The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.
—Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace)
—Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace)
There, with the young face slack with worry, disdain, and exactly the kind of look eyeliner or a beer on a Saturday doesn’t cover up. I’d call that longing, you call it boredom. A listless feeling that where you are is not where you want to hang up your coat and stay a while. Nobody will notice, you think.
This is your sadness, your secret, the comfort blanket of discomfort that makes every night nothing more than adequate. You fake a smile that could be genuine if you went three degrees to the left. A laugh that feels genuine until you think about it later. Connections you’d like to have if you were in a better ‘you met me at a bad time in my life,’ because that’s when you assume things will happen.
Be in the present? To try that would be to consciously exit all the parts of your brain that are churning, and to enter a door with people you never know anything about. Your brain is your little closet of words and memories, of reminders of the things you could say and be. The present is only a vehicle for some better tomorrow, a tomorrow you hope will come faster than your alarm. I see you, though. I see you right before that fake laughter, the way your hands always lean towards the window like a plant heading to light. I see you for reasons, most including how my face has the same beginning etches of worry, or why I’m always waiting for Friday, or April, or next year.
Welcome to the generation of wishes. The I miss you. The ‘somebody’s got to be able to express the things I’m feeling so I don’t feel so alone.’ It’s the feeling that makes you misquote the poetry of people who lost love in the exact sentiment you feel like you lost love. You stare at pictures of three years ago and remember the moments you weren’t so hurt or weren’t so upset or had the shorts you think you left somewhere else. It’s a person, it’s not a person, it’s the uncomfortable numb that times were better in moments you’re not exactly in now. It’s what happens when you have a whole week of days where nothing happens—no upwards motions, just little conversations that lack bite, of whole Tuesdays that pass without you noticing. It is a sit and wait. It is a ‘please get more interesting.’ It is driving you crazy.
It’s also this feeling of messing up. The feeling of being on your own without the tools to guide you to the spot you’re supposed to be, only because there was never a spot you were supposed to be. And again, it’s the constant longing. A homesick without having a home, the decision to ignore the home you have now.
When did we start to feel this longing? I’d say around the time of uncertainty, around the exact time somebody handed us our lives and said ‘go, baby, go.’ You had no footing. You wish you did. The last few months, years for some, have been little moments of routine, of the hike trail to the life you might have somewhere far away and distant. Where there is a somebody, there is a secure job, there is a bank account and an apartment that don’t constantly need checking on. A beam of light in the eyes of 26 and cardigan sweaters you finally found.
There is the ignorance of the present. You, on the tightrope of yesterday where things were simple, walking towards the things you think will happen. You don’t look down. You see neither the ground or the string. You are stuck somewhere in the back of your mind, because there is nowhere safer to go.
I just want to say I see you, because I am that way. I just want to say that you should get out of there.
I’m asking you to look down for once. The bottomless pit you’ve been ignoring is still there, but this time you need to feel the fear of being alive. This might be the worst and best moments, the one foot on the tiny rope where you have no idea you might fall. Spoiler: You will fall, maybe once or more, and it will be fine. It might even be lovely.
I’m asking you to look down and see the little molehills and trails and tiny houses you have built. I’m asking you to stop thinking of yesterday, or tomorrow, or any other day that is not today. To consider this day, in all of it’s sadness and terrifying moments and potential slips on ice. To see all the things you have. To look, and marvel. To be alive and young is something that only happens right now. It’s not 16. It’s now. If you don’t, the rest of your years will be filled with the longings of this day, of this today, when you forgot who you had and where you had it and why you had it. You will have more things, and this is the place to start.
The view is lovely! It is so nice, and so deep, and so scary.
Wish you were here.
The world is speaking to me in animal rhymes!
from The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James