Time Capsule | Ft. The Warped Expectations of Moments
A Time Capsule about my twisted expectations from memories.
It’s been a while since I last sat down to write this newsletter. I think you should know that I’ve officially started working i.e. I’ve entered my adulting phase now and I can’t go back from here. Presently, I work at a law firm named Saraf and Partners.
I’ll take a while to navigate around schedules and figure out how to make time for Curiousect. It doesn’t change the fact that I want to continue working and exploring things through Curiousect.
Today, I’m sharing a new Time Capsule episode !
A common thread of some of my time capsule episodes has been about paying attention to my memories. This episode is an extension of that notion and what happens when it gets twisted.
I hope you like listening to it (and reading, for those who want to).
Dès Vu is a word in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows which is used to describe the awareness that the moment you’re experiencing will become a memory. A fun and melancholic word. I think about it a lot: when I said goodbye to my campus for the last time as a student or when I stepped out of the house to go for a walk. I think about it when I hear the voice of my friends after ages have passed or when someone gives me a hug.
Lately though, I’ve noticed something peculiar about my interactions, hangouts, and conversations that I’ve had from the last year.
My sense of them has distorted. My expectations and perceptions about what I should be doing, while meeting someone close, talking to a friend online or participating in any activity together, is fractured.
Distortion of our senses is one of the many dreadful things that the pandemic has caused.
My sense of time is scary. I can’t place 2020 any more. 2019 feels like it was a lifetime away. I don’t even understand how we’re already nearing the end of 2021. What the hell happened this year?
So much did.
I was on a trip with friends, I went back to campus to say goodbye. I wasted time reading manga. I witnessed the horrors of CoVID again and I was lucky to survive. I graduated from college. I started working and I also got vaccinated, a tiny step towards ensuring some peace in this chaos.
And yet, it does not seem like the person who was going through all of these different events was me. These events appear to be from a distant history that’s about to be forgotten soon.
This leads me to another thing that the pandemic has done. It has distorted my sense of memories as well. I find it difficult to place people and situations, to actually recollect what happened. All the different memories that I shared with others, which I could vividly remember before, aren’t so vivid anymore. There is a sinking feeling that I’ll forget my past and I’m scared of failing to remember the things that led me to this moment in my history.
The past year taught me a painful lesson - that I had taken a lot of things for granted. I know this is common but I truly believe that I did take many aspects of my life for granted. The personal space that I occupied in my hostel room, the ease of access to friends, the simplicity through which we could share our time together, the unseen support around me and so many other moments that I probably did not consider to be important at the time, but now I do. The pandemic taught me this lesson by snatching away future opportunities to savour these moments.
Since I've realised this, I wanted to cherish things more. I wanted to focus and pay attention and ensure I don’t miss out on anything. I wanted to make the most out of my time here, because you never know when the next apocalypse is going to hit you. I wanted to make every moment memorable.
Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda, says “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” Millions of people across hundreds of years have said something similar. Despite knowing all of this, what I have been experiencing in the last few months was counter-intuitive.
In the blogpost Tail End, Tim Urban lays down a painfully accurate picture of the time you spend together with the people you care about. For example, after you graduate the amount of hangouts with your friends significantly reduces from hundreds to maybe a handful of times in a year.
All of the people I know are on their own path. We're working now and have different schedules. We don’t control our time the same way as we used to before. We are scattered around in different parts of the country and the world. I don’t talk to them often. In fact, I don’t even know how some of them are doing. I hope they are well.
So, on the odd occasions that I do end up spending time outside by myself, hanging out with friends and family, having conversations virtually, or doing any activity together - my pandemic-distorted brain is associating a substantial amount of significance to these instances. My mind is thinking about what to do to make sure this moment is “meaningful” and a small part of it is also calculating my emotional response to the moment I’m in.
In an attempt to take back everything that the pandemic snatched from me, I began attaching a lot of weight to every single memory that I’m a part of. I’m giving myself up to arbitrary expectations from every interaction that I have and a part of me is stuck in rumination about these moments as and when they’re happening.
If I’m walking alone through Lalbagh and I find the walk to be peaceful, I’m also wondering till when the peace would last. If I call some of my friends to get in touch because it has been a while, I’m expecting that conversation to be “memorable”. While I’m on that call, a small part of me is thinking - am I taking this for granted? Am I making the most of this moment here? Will we ever do this again? Should we talk about something else?
I probably did have fun. I am sure I was enjoying those moments. We must’ve spoken about something meaningful. We would have done something completely random and obscure. We would have shared our miseries. People would’ve cracked the same old lame jokes, and I would’ve laughed after a long time. All of this did happen.
But a small part of me in that moment and immediately after, isn’t experiencing all this. I notice afterwards that I don’t remember how I actually felt. I can’t recollect what my emotional response was. My mind was wondering whether I had saved and captured this particular moment from a future onslaught of the pandemic. I was absorbed in deciding if this would become a memory to be remembered fondly. I was contemplating if the moment I’m in would be special or irrelevant?
It probably was special. How could it not be? Even if it wasn’t, why does it have it be?
I was part of a moment in time where I was sharing my existence with others. There is no need for me to justify why that moment or any other memory is special. Memories can be random, absurd and insignificant. They could even be forgettable, but I felt the need to validate every moment with some arbitrary meaning.
Mary Oliver once wrote - “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”
I only needed to embrace that experience, to give in to that moment of joy. But I hesitated and the moment had passed.
I only had remorse to deal with later.
It’s not just the pandemic that distorted these expectations of mine. I know things aren’t the same anymore. We are all leading equally different and complex lives. So, when I get to spend time and share a memory together, I want to hold on to that as much as I can. I don’t want to let go of this fleeting feeling. I want to remember vividly what I’m going through right now. I want to give in to that moment. But, I’m hesitating and failing.
This is incredibly frustrating. I know what I’m doing is unhelpful and yet I’m unable to stop. I’m sure it’ll take a while for me to revert back to a place where my expectations are not so twisted.
I am well aware that it is important to make the most of my time here. Yes, it is important to pay attention. Yes, it is important to appreciate and be grateful for these memories. But, to paraphrase John Green here, I can’t keep thinking about moments from the perspective of an observer, I must participate in them.
I hope you liked this episode ! I would love to know your thoughts.
Don’t forget to share this with your friends !
Nirmal Bhansali !