As the seasons pass and we leave behind the hot summer days (depending on where you are reading this and when), I feel the passage of time weighing on me. Seeing the change in the foliage and the sudden temperature shift we experience here in Tokyo is quite jarring, and it accentuates the fact that life is going, with or without our consent.
Coming from a tropical latitude where seasons are but an invisible formality seeing this shift is something I still have not gotten used to, even after six years of calling myself a resident of Japan. It was almost as if it gave the world a sense of eternity, an immutable presence that made time feel stale and long-lasting. Yet, those days are long gone.
This passage of time, or more accurately the experience of seeing time go by and its effect on our environment, can be a cruel reminder of our limited time on this earth and the way we have chosen to live so far. I know that, to me, it has been a reminder of my choices and how I have decided to experience my life to this point. And the way I have chosen to experience my life has been, for the most part, in waiting.
We all get to live on this earth, have a human experience, and experience time equally. However, we don’t perceive that time the same way as others do. For some of us, life is in the moment. We enjoy our family and friends; look for experiences in nature, media, or other places; every day is its own story. For others, like me, the good times are not yet here, and the present is just a set of hours that are on our way to our desires.
So we wait.
Living in The Wait
The wait becomes a form of living, if you could call it that, and monopolizes any other aspect of our life, making us live in the future. So we wait to graduate; we wait to move out; we wait to get a job; we wait for the one; we wait until marriage; we wait until the kids are gone; we wait until retirement; we wait until we die. And in all this time, we scarcely experienced any joy.
For me, there was always a set of things that needed to happen before I could be happy. Like a carrot enticing the horse, I felt like where I was was not good and that I needed to push on and move, which in most cases was sitting on my ass waiting for time to pass. So killing time became an integral part of my day, and I filled as many hours as possible with distractions and entertainment.
I felt, very strongly, that something in the present was in the way. When this happens, we can feel the emptiness of the want. We feel something is missing, and because we are too unaware of ourselves, we attribute our yearn to something in the future that we think can fill the emptiness.
Yet, in reality, as it was for me, the only thing in the way was my mind.
Prisoners of the Future
For those unfortunate souls that who, like me, are trapped in the cruel purgatory of waiting, I want you to know that I feel for you. I know what it feels like to be caged in the prison of the present, desperately trying to exist in a place that is yet to be. Cursing their fortune for putting their happiness where they can’t be yet and taking away any agency on the matter other than their capacity of restraint.
I know what it is to experience life through the lens of the wait. Letting the wait give context to our present and rob us of any enjoyment we could share now is a cruel fate, but it doesn’t have to be.
I was a prisoner of the mind, a convict of my own making because I was obsessed with expectations. But that is not a life sentence. I was more occupied with what could be than what is, unaware of my own deception. You, on the other hand, don’t have to be.
Live this moment. Enjoy the experience of existing. Breathe the rich air of the present and relish the reality that this instant is unlike any other. You are having this human experience with millions of others at the same time. That is a beautiful, beautiful thing.
This moment will never come again. And letting it pass, dismissed, ignored, neglected, is but the tragedy of those living in the cage of the future.