Buy the Ticket, Tolerate the Ride

There are a lot of chapters of my life I’ve flown through. It’s hard to explain.
You know when you’re watching a movie or a show and you step out to use the bathroom or you look down at your phone or you just let your mind drift off for a moment, and then suddenly somebody asks you, what did you think of that poignant scene at 63 minutes in? Personally, I thought it was the best scene in the movie! Only then do you realize you missed it. You weren’t paying attention. You don’t tell them that though. You play along and keep your response general so they know you were present, but you can’t get too detailed, or they’ll see right through you.

This is how the past few years of my life have felt. I stepped out for a while, and only now am I realizing how removed I’ve been, especially when someone asks me a question about myself. What do you like? What do you do? Did you enjoy college? Do you keep in touch with any old classmates? What do you do for fun? What books have you been reading? 

I never liked talking about myself, but I don’t think that’s why I feel uneasy when people ask me these questions. I guess I just don’t know what to say. I could tell them the truth, but the truth isn’t interesting. I made no friends in my classes. I was too embarrassed to speak my mind or share my opinion, even in small classes. I didn’t carry on after college and land an admirable writing job. I started working as a teller at a local credit union. I don’t know what I like. Well, I know what I like, but it isn’t interesting. I haven’t been reading anything. I don’t know why.

If I were to answer truthfully, I’d lose my audience, and so I have to think up a script for the ever revolving questions. I have to queue up facial expressions and use my body language accordingly. I have to read the facial expressions and body language of my audience to figure out whether I sound interesting. If they look bored, that means I need to change my tone, or maybe even the course of my narrative. If they seem intrigued, I can relax, but not too much. I have to be careful not to come across as cocky or pretentious because those are traits I hate most in other people; and the only thing worse than being one of those things is being a hypocrite.

What I really want to say when someone asks me what’s new with me is: Nothing. It doesn’t matter. Not because I’m rude or pessimistic. Or maybe it’s exactly that. I was 20 and now I’m 25. The older I get, the faster time moves. You always hear old people talking about age, about time. I used to be able to hop across the Golden Gate Bridge on one foot with no shoes, but not anymore. Now, I can hardly even read the newspaper without my glasses, but that’s what happens when you get old. You’ll understand someday.

I understand now, and it’s not because I need glasses to read the newspaper. I understand because I see how quickly life goes by when you place yourself on autopilot. Wake up, go to work, clock in, take a lunch break, clock out, try to squeeze in a workout if you can, but if you can’t that’s okay, you had a hectic day, you deserve a beer, take a shower, pick out your clothes, go to bed, wake up, repeat the cycle.

How do you slow down? Is it possible to control time, in a sense, to make time stretch? Is the answer the cliché one: live in the moment? If it is, how do you do that? Is that the only way?

Sometimes your life is a movie you’re watching instead of living, and sometimes you’re not even paying attention. The misleading thing is that you didn’t even buy the ticket. Somebody gave it to you, and now you feel obligated to sit through the entire, arduous spectacle.

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