In two weeks, I’ll turn 30.
I’m really looking forward to this one. I’m looking forward to being out of my twenties because, apparently when you turn 30, you are done having to learn things. You just know all the things. Or at least, it seems that people stop looking at you like, “Ugh. Grow up, child.” Maybe I’m in a line of work where being in your 20′s is especially disadvantageous. I don’t know. I just know that I’m ready to be in on my next decade.
The turning of not just one year to the next, but from one decade to the next often prompts a time of a reflection, a new reckoning with when one is between the waypoints of life. My birth was nearly three decades ago. Death seems more real. I am most definitely not a kid anymore. Now I help mark the passing of my own life by the hour and minute hands that are my children.
I was thinking about where I’m headed. I think the tendency at these points in life is to freak out about everything you’ve never done. All the TV shows show me people melting down and making lists of stupid things they’ve never done. People seem to ask, “But have I really done enough? Have I done as much as I thought I would by this point in my life?” I see the temptation on that last point. Some part of me wonders if I should have done more school by now. Should I be further down the road of a real point of interest and study in my life? The truth is, though, I cannot alter the past. There’s no point in freaking out about what I haven’t done. I feel like I’ve had a pretty great life so far, so why worry about what I haven’t done?
I do want to move forward with some focus, though. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being honest about your own mortality. I cannot fight death. Death will come at the end of my life and there is no arguing that away. At some point in the future, my lungs will cease to fill. My heart will not plunge on. I will die.
What is the accumulation of my life going to look like? What will the pile of people and things and memories and time look like? What do I want it to look like?
I was thinking the other day that I want to find moments that I radically appreciate with my wife. I want to find myself stoping to stare at something, to reach for Erin’s hand, and to say, “Wow.” I do not think that I will be able to give my children much money when I die. I won’t be able to set them up as my parents have set me up. But I want them to have those moments with us. I want them to have lived lives that were full of appreciation for things that you can never adequately record or describe.
Memory is a tricky thing. Our digital age has convinced us that recording everything will mean we will better own our past. We never have to forget anything. We carry around cameras in our pocket to make sure we never fail to record anything. There are more banally cute moments of parenting stored on Instagram than the world has ever collected. And yet, I cannot help but think that we remember the same as every generation before us, and maybe even a little bit less.
We have moments. And we have fabric.
We have moments where we stand on the mountain bald and we watch the sunset put match to fuse and explode across the sky. We have moments where life changes and you are married or your children marry or you travel together. Those moments just happen but they are also something you can aspire to create. You can plan for them and work for them.
But there is also the fabric of your memory. There are threads of recollection that you never even really see, but that form the basis of a tapestry of memory. I cannot recount for you every time that I have walked into my children’s rooms and smiled at their delightfully intense sleep. The number of times I have laughed at bodies half on bed or somehow turned in a hundred different strange way. I can’t exactly describe every single time that Ryann has made me so proud by being an incredible big sister, and intuitive and creative thinker. I cannot photographically capture every sprint across the room from Alethia as she attempts to say hello or goodbye. I cannot reproduce every huge smile or baby laugh that Valor has thrown out in five short months. I cannot tell you how many times Erin and I have looked at each other and smiled and delighted in our children. Or in each other. Or in our friends. Or in our beautiful front yard. Or the flowers we bought that one time. Or that food that we had that other time.
The threads are too manifold for me to keep track of individually. But taking steps back, I can tell you that the tapestry is beautiful. I can tell you that I have been given tremendous wealth in the people and places that have spun around me for nearly 30 years.
I think that we are supposed to remember at different levels. We have moments that are so blazingly bright that we cannot help but hold on to them. And we have an accumulation of micro-moments that pass into a different form of memory. We forget the singularity and better comprehend the multiplicity. This way, we can step back and see an accumulation of goodness.
There is, of course, darkness and pain in every person’s tapestry. For many people, there is a great deal of it. But this, too, has the blessing of accumulation. We can remember seasons of pain and sorrow. But we simply cannot remember every single bad day in photographic detail. In this way, too, we can start to gain perspective.
This kind of forgetting is a special and important kind of remembering. This is our humanity that ebbs and flows and yet floats on a tide of goodness that the world is trying to make us forget. We are being carried along by an abundance of grace and kindness that we often cannot see because our nose is pressed so close to the tapestry, seeking threads or seeing gaps where we do not have what we wanted. We lose track of the larger picture because we’re pressing more into the tapestry than it can hold right now.
I will soon be 30. I want to intentionally thread some things into my tapestry. I want to go after those hand-holding moments. But I also want to take comfort in the forgetting. I won’t be able to hold onto all the details of all that goodness. There’s just too much of it to possibly photograph, record, and remember. I’ll never be able to hold on to all these years in my memory bank. There will just be too much for me to be able to remember perfectly. It will fade to fuzz, to background music, to setting sunlight.
I can’t hold on to all the goodness I’ve seen.
It’s just too much. It’s too much for me.