Time is a crazy mother fucking thing.
I wish I had a more philosophical explanation to share with you, about its brevity, or its authority, or its power to heal. But I don’t. Because this inexplicable “human construct” continues to baffle me— slipping through my fingers like sand on the good days and syrup on the bad ones. Tormenting me with beginnings and endings and firsts and lasts. With cycles and changes and firsts I didn’t even know were lasts.
But there’s one thing that will never change. Even in this defining decade of a year that will haunt high school history books forever: Time keeps moving.
In this terrifying yet unifying, international shit show we have come to normalize as Twenty Twenty, when there’s nothing, and no one we can count on – Alas, we can count on it. We can count on it, time. Mocking us with steadiness. Laughing. Leaving us frazzled and in its dust.
Yet, simultaneously, propelling us along, indefinitely towards and away from who we think we are…
We define ourselves by our careers. The Doctor. The Bartender. The Doctor Turned Bartender. We define ourselves by our future plans to travel, or to start a business, or to have 5 kids. The Free Spirit. The Doer. The Family Man.
And we define ourselves by our most momentous relationships. The ones who broke or built our hearts. The ones who taught us to pray or made us atheists. The ones who stayed too long or left too quickly. We became Lovers, or Abandoned Daughters, or Psycho Exes with Trust Issues…
2020 took a big red pen and crossed out these titles. We lost our jobs. We canceled our plans. We were forced away from certain relationships and trapped in the confinement of our homes with others. Our egos collapsed, and it became hard to see over the piles and piles of should-have-beens and could-be’s.
College felt so tangible, so structured. We knew the rubric. We memorized the map. It seemed clear how to get to where we needed to go— pass your classes, make some friends, discover some interests, then graduate. But then what? Now what?
In the months surrounding and following my virtual graduation, I felt forced to define and redefine myself as the people and parts and ideas that made me, seemed to slip from my grasp. One after another, after another…
In March I was an Ambitious Writer and a Soon to Be College Grad. In April I got into grad school and became a Scholar, a Promising Future Journalist, a Pretentious Gen-Z Hiding from Fear of the Real World.
In May I became a Socially Ignorant Virus Spreader. A Wine Drunk. A Virtual Grad. In June a Complainer. A Pessimist. A Drop-Out. July defined me as a Hopeless Hometowner. August an Avid Job Applicant. September a Marketing Intern at a Gov-Tech Company. October a Locked-Up Chicago Resident. November… December…
I defined and redefined. I scribbled out and wrote in. I edited the shit out of my life until it was one I barely recognized. What happened to the rough draft? How did the Journalist in New York become a Tech Intern in Chicago?
(And I know I am luckier than most. I know I have it good. Worrying about how the ramifications of the pandemic will affect my career growth is privilege.)
But enough about me. We all kept distance. We all plan B’d, and C’d and D’d. We all paused. And we all pivoted. But hey, if you’re lucky enough to be reading this, you also persevered.
Titles are flimsy and plans are made of straw. International pandemics are in fact temporary, and the future is as ambiguous and all-consuming as the sky.
It’s almost cute— we little humans think we have a say in any of this shit. And maybe that’s our power. Maybe our power, our permanence, is being as unpredictable, yet everlasting as time itself. Maybe it’s when we realize we are not Doctors Turned Bartenders, or Crazy Ex-Lovers, or Virtual Grads. But we are here. We are just Here.
We are not the chaos that defined or dwindled us. We are not the titles we lost or changed or framed or shattered. We are not who we shouldn’t have been or who we long to be. We are just Here.
We are not the tomorrow but the movement toward it. We are not the brighter future but the sincerity of the longing to see it. We are not all that’s led up to this moment, but the moment itself. We are Here. We are Here. We are Here.
In 2021 I pledge to stay Here. I pledge to live Here. I pledge to dream Here. And instead of worrying about who I’m supposed to be, or should have been, or will become— I’m just going to hang out here for a while. I’m going to let time do its thing. And I’m just going to wait and see and be.
Julia is a 22 year old grad from Indiana University. She is currently living in Chicago working in Marketing and interning at Another Chicago Magazine. Julia enjoys reading poetry, drinking red wine, and dreams of traveling across South America. You can contact her at email@example.com