Do you ever wonder how to hold onto the “good old days” while you’re living them? Everyone keeps telling you to “be present,” but do you know the most important part of being “present” is to… let go?
Grief, exhaustion, pain… sometimes these are other words for life. I’ve been reflecting a lot about my struggle with finding peace, but I have found that there is one piece of all of this that I have had right. I often stress about the future and live in the past, and I have struggled with allowing people the room to change and grow. But I’m growing.
Particularly lately, I’ve heard a LOT about living present in the moment. I think the first time this idea occurred to me in a way that I understood was when I watched the finale of The Office.
If you haven’t seen The Office (US), you’ve probably heard enough about it to know the basics, so I’ll spare you most of it and explain the quote. They are “interviewing” Andy Bernard in the finale, who is a character that would always talk about his buddies at college. He was a character who saw the past as the best years of his life, and he struggled to find his place in the office. He does make friends, becomes the boss, loses his job, and eventually (spoiler alert) gets a job at his alma mater. When he meets back up with the crew, he says a line that absolutely destroyed me.
Here’s the 28 second clip, but I also put the quote below:
“The weird thing is now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’ve got my dream job at Cornell, and I’m still just thinking about my old pals. Only now they’re the ones I made here. I wish there was a way to know you’re in “the good old days” before you’ve actually left them.”
There’s a piece that’s understood that he realized he messed up by living in the past all those years. He didn’t see what was right in front of him until it was gone. While you watched the show, it felt painful to hear him talk about his old pals from school. You wanted to shake him and tell him to move on. He did it because he didn’t feel completely included, and it was his way to feel whole and cool… instead of allowing the uncomfortable tension of not fitting in to pass. When he did that, he removed himself from the people around him… and therefore pushed them away. He didn’t mean to. He was just responding to being uncomfortable by not engaging in the present moment. Then when he did have those good moments, those wonderful connecting moments, he mostly didn’t see it. At first he did, but he’d quickly take it for granted.
So there seemed to be so much understood when he said those words in the finale. “I wish I hadn’t missed it. I wish I had been fully present, because those moments weren’t going to last forever.”
The other day I went on a hike with my new group of friends. They are fellow stutterers, and the four of us did the Torrey Pines beach hike. When we got down to the beach portion, I took off my shoes and ran down to the ocean. The weather was perfect; the hike was wonderful; my company was kind. I LOVE the beach and sunshine, so I spun around once my feet were covered by the clear ocean water. I shot an excited face at my friend next to me, who gave me a smile, and then looked at the other two in the sand, each of whom had the same grin as they watched me be goofy. As if to affectionally think, “Oh, Jaymie.” Those grins caught me off guard, and I felt so known.
I thought to myself, “This is one of those moments.”
I don’t have them often… where I’m aware in the moment that this will be something I look back on with warmth. The last year though, I’ve had a handful of these moments. The best thing I’ve learned to do with them is just enjoy them. I do not try to hold onto them. I’d be miserable. These moments are so fleeting, but the love in them can carry you forever. Anything could happen. These friendships could end or all hikes could be destroyed, but I had this moment. And that moment was enough. I simply enjoyed it, and let it be exactly what it was: a temporary moment of pure happiness. I haven’t had a lot of those lately, so it was beautiful. I didn’t let other emotions push through, other anxieties about the past or the future, or other ways to read the situation. I just let myself feel happy.
When I look back at the last few months with my puppy (RIP my Turbo), I know that those moments carry me now. I had moments that I realized were absolutely silly. There was no other human around to enjoy them, but instead of trying to hold onto those moments, I just enjoyed them. I didn’t try to take a picture or write it all down. I didn’t text anyone right away (though I did later) and I didn’t pray for it to happen again. I just threw my head back and laughed, hard. And I knew in those moments, that naming the temporary happiness what it is will allow me to feel it in full. The rest of the day may be stressful, but right now I am laughing. That’s enough.
The moments with Turbo were overwhelming to think about right after his death, and even now they still hurt. But the love I felt myself give and receive at those times stays with me. There is no regret of taking the moments for granted. I didn’t try to push through the moments because we had things to do or people to see. I let the interruptions and the surprises just happen, and I let myself laugh.
Perhaps part of why this weekend’s moment on the beach stuck with me was because I was having a moment of being free. I didn’t think it was the smartest idea to take my shoes off because sandy feet would kinda suck. But I did it anyway. I realized I’d look so dumb running to the ocean and spinning around like a child. But I was happy, so I did it anyway. I didn’t let the rules or guidelines of adulthood define me. I let myself be childlike because I wanted to express my happiness. And it wasn’t met with embarrassment or confusion. It was met with acceptance and love. My new friends were not ashamed of me, but instead they were glad at my happiness. They wanted me to be happy, and didn’t mind that the girl they were with was completely silly.
So I allowed the moment to be temporary. Because of that, I have it forever.