Today I woke up in peculiar kind of way, with a surreal sense of the swiftness of time passing.
I am 28 years old now, slowly inching towards 30. It occurs to me that in two years I will take these 10 monumental years, package them neatly into what I will from that point onwards refer to as “my twenties” and file it away.
We have a tendency to paraphrase life.
Decades reduced to two words.
Life is fleeting.
These nothing days tumble and collect into weeks. These weeks melt into months, and these months are arranged rather haphazardly into a year. These years stack up into decades that live only in my memory. I take these stacks of years, I smear them with a bronze brush, paint them golden, and there they remain in the architecture of my mind. Like an ancient, dilapidated building I always pass on my way to my new home, that doesn’t quite yet feel like home.
“Remember when…” I’ll sometimes say.
“Those were the good ol’ days.”
I look back on the first half of my twenties. I have a hard drive full of photographs from every gathering with friends, every event attended, every big deal thing that as occurred.
I look at these photos and arrange them together like a jigsaw of my life, and yet I find so many missing pieces.
I wish I had remembered to document more of the ordinary things. Those are the empty spaces. You know, those in-between blurry, underexposed, light leaked photos that evokes a subtle nostalgia about it. The faint scent of a memory.
I think about all the absolutely ordinary things that filled my days in that era of my life. My morning walk to the hospital, or to a lecture. That same long boring walk along the same boring road. Though I mostly enjoyed it because it gave me a chance to listen to my favourite music and daydream.
And then I recall the sideways rain that made my walk dreadfully unpleasant. The squelch of my feet. The wet clothes I would peel off my skin at the end of the day and step into my tepid shower. I can almost still feel the dampness that settled in my bones, that endless chill that comes from living in a rainy Irish city by the sea.
All the little rooms I lived in that were never as beautiful as I wanted it to be. Fast forward a few years and I now have a pinterest worthy bedroom that I share with my husband, and yet I look back tenderly at the sweet imperfections of my quaint old bedrooms. The unsightly yellow pine shelves cluttered with my favourite books, the creaky leaky radiator, the damp stained walls, all my stuff overflowing from the drawers, the garish red curtains, the green door, the blue carpet, the metal bed frame, the floral bedsheets, the hot-cold shower that trickled, the broken flush, grocery store roses in a pint glass on the windowsill of a the window overlooking a picturesque dumpster and grey skies.
These rooms contained a 20 year old me. a 21,22, 23, 24 and 25 year old me.
I remember sitting with my roommate Sean in our living room, catching up on our day – the interesting cases we saw, the weirdly hilarious thing Becca said, a new TV show to watch, whether we got to scrub into surgery or not, all our misadventures while learning how to insert a cannula, carefully plotting our next pranks on our unsuspecting friends, what our mothers said on the phone this evening, and usually some philosophical contemplation about human nature. What once began as a 10 minute catch-up standing in the doorway of our kitchen, would often turn into hours that would spill into the early hours of the morning. The night would end with a “Oh crap, we really should go to sleep.” A hurried goodnight, doors shut and lights out.
I wish I took more photographs of Sean. We spent more time talking in the kitchen than we did posing for photographs together.
There were so many tiny beautiful things. Like…
Spending far too many friday nights eating take out in bed, while watching documentaries. Strolling through the cobblestone streets in the late evening, meandering in and out of the shops. Walking through campus. Lunch at my regular cafe always ordering the same thing every time. Slow afternoons in the hospital. Hanging around awkwardly in the nurses station, flicking through files.
Drinking hot chocolates. Calling a cab. Making small talk with the cab driver. Getting popcorn from the vending machine. Walking back from the grocery store in the rain with heavy shopping bags. Eating quietly amongst friends in the cafeteria. Eating alone. Studying late at the reading room with friends, and enjoying every moment of it, because there was no where else we had to be other than exactly there, together.
Waking up on a Saturday morning with nothing to do but study. Walking to the little store across the road from the hospital with my friend Steve before class would start and then complaining about the nauseating smell of his meaty sandwich that he insisted on eating first thing in the morning. The wind on top of the quincentennial bridge. Listening to my husbands voice on the phone in the dark. Meditating in my bedroom.
These were not the things I always thought to document or capture. Though sometimes I did, simply due to my inclination towards taking photographs or writing about things. But I never really thought to myself “This moment, of walking home from the hospital with my friend, talking about nothing in particular, I must remember this.”
And yet these are the moments that mean the most to me now.
This is something I’ve attempted again and again, to somehow find a way to encapsulate the essence of a memory in a photograph or a piece of written prose.
One thing I am assured of, is that I never write for you to read something. Nor do I ever take a photograph for you to see something. I do it for you to feel something. I hope this makes you feel something.
In many ways my 20’s were an introduction to myself, and I collected different parts of myself in all these little things.
And in this same way, one day you may play back at this very ordinary moment of your life and it will conjure up within you all the ways it felt back then. You will ache for the precise way that life wrapped itself around you. The warmth or coolness of this memory. I suppose the best time to enjoy the good ol’ days is when you’re in them.
And so I urge you to celebrate these mundane moments. Don’t disregard them or consider them unimportant. The only way to fully capture the now is to be completely present and full right here and right now.
In the same vein, I would like to share with you some photographs of ordinary moments of this season of my life – but I shall save that for the next blog post.