Living By Little Moments
There’s a lot of things I’m afraid of: alligators, bears, parallel parking, etc. But for a long time, my greatest fear was blending in. To me, the worst sin I could ever commit against myself was to grow up and become just another cog in the machine. I’d always been taught to stand out—I think we all were. Be different, they’d say, different people make a difference. So I subscribed to that belief. Heavily. After all, that was the most important thing in life, right?
I got into the dangerous habit of putting most of my self-worth not in who I was, but rather who I could be. One day, I was going to be somebody. A famous writer, maybe. Or a notable photographer. Something with a platform, at least, an influence. I wanted to make an impact—I needed to. Not solely for the sake of the impact itself, but in my own self-interest, too. Only then would my existence be validated, my life proven important.
But gosh, that was such an exhausting way to live, constantly wondering if I was making the right choices, pursuing the right path, going the right direction. A relentless cloud seemed to lurk above my head, making me often question, what if you grow up to be average, anyways? What if you can’t save yourself from normality? What then?
I never had an answer.
But then I went to the beach one day. It was June—early June, about two years ago. The shore was rather empty when my family and I got there, but I didn’t mind. I actually liked it better that way. Gray blanket skies hung low overhead, and it was just cool enough to throw on a sweatshirt if you really wanted to. Around noon, we got pizza, which we ate on the beach, a customary tradition of ours. After finishing mine, I discarded whatever mess I had made then promptly sat back down and looked up. There was a little boy, maybe three or so, playing in the water not too far off in the distance. He ran in circles, round and round. Occasionally, he’d follow the tide as it pulled back, and then sprint forward as it came in again, teasing the ocean. I think I smiled and stayed like that for awhile, just watching him prance about the waves. It was comforting in a way I can’t quite find the words to explain. And I’m not sure if it was then, or a few days, or even a few months following that afternoon that I came to this realization, but somewhere along the way, I decided that that was my favorite moment—ever. That if I could go back to one day—any day—it’d be that one. There. Sitting on the beach. Watching that little boy play. Just watching.
There’s something I know now that I didn’t before, and it’s this: life is so much more than your place in it. Our whole lives we’ve been ingrained with the idea that average equals unimportant. You have to lead an exciting life. You should go on exotic adventures, attain a noteworthy career, create some type of title for yourself—anything to fall on the right side of the bell curve, something to symbolize existential success. But the thing is, I don’t really think there is such a thing as “average,” not when it comes to people, anyways. Humans are like books: the vast majority of us may look relatively the same from the outside, a range of similar colors, sizes, and bindings. But when the time is taken to read one, you discover just how unique and intricate the story that lies within it is.
You know all those corny quotes people put up on their walls? You know, the ones they engrave on wooden signs that you can buy at Home Goods? Well, there’s one I’ll lay my pride aside long enough to admit it holds a great deal of truth: Life’s about the journey, not the destination. As much as we may hate to admit it, we just don’t have full control over the path we’re on. Frankly, life is short and unpredictable, and even though we may have an end goal in mind, there’s no telling whether or not we’ll ever really make it there. But that’s ok—the world doesn’t have to know your name to feel your presence. Besides, life’s value is not defined by what you do, but what you get out of it.
I’m okay now if I never write a New York Time’s best seller, or my pictures don’t make it on the cover of National Geographic. And though I fully intend to continue to shoot for the moon, in my eyes, I’ve already landed amongst the stars. There’s so many little things in life that I’ve fallen in love with, like dancing badly to my favorite band while my roommate’s in class, or taking lone walks through the woods just before the sun goes down (merely two things on a list that could stretch on for miles). And honestly? I wouldn’t want to live any other way, because there’s a certain serenity to simplicity that too often gets taken for granted; and I think the day we wake up and recognize all the beauty these seemingly mundane moments hold, is when we really start living life to the fullest. At the end of the day, I think what matters most is the little things. It’s riding in your friend’s car at night with all the windows down, or seeing how excited your dog gets when you take him to the park. It’s eating mac and cheese with your niece as you reluctantly hit play on your 18th round of Disney’s “Frozen.” And sometimes, it may even be watching little boys play in the ocean.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”– Albert Einstein