In the Wake of Time

You. You’re existing in another place right now. In another memory, in another mind. You’re being remembered. Things you did a few years ago, or yesterday, or maybe in the future, in the form of hopes and meticulously planned out scenes that’ll never happen. You exist in some figment of someone else’s imagination, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

How weird does that sound?

Few of us are used to the idea that our presence stays any longer than our present actions and words. Even famous people and newborn celebrities may have a hard time grasping how far they’ve gotten, that their work means something to people. Even if what they did was absolutely amazing, sometimes it’s hard to comprehend their impact if they’re not there to see it.

We talk about remembering people and what they’re known for. They discover a breakthrough in science. They create a work of art that touches thousands. They get mentioned in newspapers, radio shows, web articles, everywhere. But sometimes the most memorable moments are the ones that are the most mundane. It’s things you do every day. Somebody remembers your compliment. Somebody remembers when you passed by them, and they thought you looked nice that day. Strangers, friends, passersby: your imprint can be on anyone.

Giant Bubbles, Clem Onojeghuo

I just like that. The idea that even when you’re gone, when time has passed you by, you still made your mark on the world. It’s a quaint thought.

It’s unnerving, though, to say the least, to think that there are parts of you floating around that aren’t in your control. Like blowing bubbles into the air. Like a performance for nobody and everybody. But you don’t know when the spotlight is on you, and sometimes when you’re performing for a few people, others take notice. You can’t see them, though. All you know is that somebody’s watching you.

But when I turn to myself and ask what traces of people linger inside me, I don’t remember watching people and wondering why they dared to step into the spotlight. I remember them because they were bright, because they didn’t care, because they shone boldly and brilliantly when no one was watching.  I remember the little girl at the supermarket whose grin was like a spring that stretched from ear to ear and never coiled up. I remember a kid instinctively holding their arm out to protect their friend from approaching headlights. I remember love. I remember happiness. I remember bonds and connections and people who I wanted to be and actions I wanted to emulate. But never in the form of criticisms.

I think we’re all afraid of time forgetting us. It trudges forward and leaves behind a grooved, unforgiving path. People get left behind. Others are engraved in the dirt, some deserved, some unfairly. You won’t be known by everybody. You won’t be liked by everybody.

But in the wake of time, you exist, and you act, and you survive.

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