Time Is The Real Killer

Walking into Peet’s Coffee, inhaling the scent of coffee and seeing all these grown ups leisurely sipping coffee and tea and chatting aimlessly, reading books and newspapers, living grown up lives, I feel a sharp pang of nostalgia. A deep yearning.

This life. I used to live this life.

It reminds me most of college and the early years post-graduation. A free and easy time. No mortgage. No kids. Nothing but time and money. Well, perhaps not a lot of money. But not many of us had a ton of money so it didn’t really matter. We had enough to be comfortable and do the small things we wanted to do. We lived in crappy apartments and ate out at cheap eats.

I miss LA, the city of my young adulthood. Home of late night cafes and Norm’s and lounging in Barnes & Nobles, pretending to do homework or write or whatever, but really using it as an excuse to hang out with friends and chatting deep into the night.

It’s true, what they say; youth is wasted on the young.

Had I realized at the time what I had? That most precious of commodities: an unlimited expanse of time ahead of me. A life unencumbered.

I’d like to think that I did but I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I wasted so much of my free time angsting over love and religion and relationships and boys and just really stupid, worthless things. Well, perhaps not worthless exactly. But certainly not worth the amount of time I obsessed over these subjects.

Why did I not spend more of my time reading, writing, eating, knitting, crafting, and risking? Why did I dream such small dreams? Or worse yet, why did I dream such lofty dreams and do nothing to pursue them?

And now, it’s not so much that it’s too late so much as I am so tired.

The only reason I am writing today is because I asked Hapa Papa a week in advance so that I could ditch the kiddos and sneak away to a café and write. I’ve been slacking lately and I know if I don’t right the ship and get back on course that I’ll blink and it will be another year gone and I’ll have let my thoughts molder by the wayside and BLAM! Next thing you know the kids will be in college and I’ll STILL be just a bundle of potential, a fantastic description when you’re young, a damning epitaph when you’re old.

I have to remind myself that like all things in life, this is only a season. A season of small children with big needs. A season full of small humans whom I love.

Yes, yes. I actually have to remind myself that I love my children.

I know. I’m a terrible human being.

I mean, it’s easy to remember when they’re snuggly and cozy and cute and agreeable and funny and hilarious and doing what I want them to when I want them to in the way that I have told them to. (You know, like good little robots.)

It is terribly difficult to remember when they’re cranky and tired and demanding to play more Halo or candy or cookies or juice because they are SO HUNGRY but yet refuse to eat their oatmeal or sandwich or soup or whatever else I’ve been tricked into providing because they said they wanted that for dinner but take one bite and refuse to eat anymore.

Not that I would know anything about this, of course. Purely a hypothetical situation.

To think that someday, in the near future, I will look fondly back on these chaotic, frustratingly repetitive days and actually miss them. I will write a similar post, perhaps after visiting a new young mother, or perhaps even when being with my own grown children and their small babies.

I think of this possible future and my throat hitches, a lump already forming in my overly sentimental chest.

Someday, someday soon, my babies will be big and grown and independent, with loves and lives of their own. And while of course, every parent aspires to raise good, contributing people full of vitality and love, people who are separate and yet connected, the idea is bittersweet to me. (However tempting a clean, tidy house with nothing but time ahead of me sounds.)

Isn’t that the irony of life? Just when you get what you think you want, you would give it all back just to have a moment of the good old days.

It is the curse and blessing of temporal beings, locked unidirectionally in the forward flow of time.

Carpe that diem, friends. It will be tomorrow before you know it.

My Perforated Brain

A long time ago, or so I remember, my brain used to work and work well. I learned new things quickly without much trouble, and thought myself so awesome for having an agile mind (that I did nothing to earn or deserve). Well, the joke’s on me because that is no longer the case.

It’s not so much that my brain is broken. I’ve surprised myself lately by doing things I didn’t think I was capable of doing such as researching articles and responding to comments in a logical and polite way. Who knew I could be diplomatic and congenial all the while completely disagreeing with people? UNHEARD OF.

I’m talking more specifically about acquiring and applying new skills. It’s possible that I just have a mental block, but mostly, it’s because learning somewhat foreign skills requires time. In particular, larger chunks of uninterrupted time. So, unless it’s after the kids are asleep (and my brain is exhausted), I mostly have to learn in smaller increments. As a result, I barely get through a few new concepts and what do you know? Cookie Monster has discovered Mommy is not around and has gone searching and then has found me. Or Glow Worm wakes up from his nap. Or something. And since a lot of this stuff that I’m learning is technical jargon and stuff I haven’t fully integrated into my brain yet, all the new stuff I had just read (and re-read) goes POOF!

I know. I really should just disappear for half a day at the library or a coffee shop (how cliché), turn off the internet, and dive in. But since it’s mostly a side project and not urgent, I make excuses and tell myself I’d prefer to read or hang out with my friends in my limited spare time. After all, despite Hapa Papa traveling all the time for vacation work, he might also appreciate some downtime for himself. (BWAHAHAHAHA! Oh, who are we kidding? NO TIME FOR YOU, Hapa Papa!)

All this to say that I never thought I would long for large swathes of time to study and learn for my own enjoyment and edification. College is totally wasted on the young.

If I Had To Do College All Over Again

Since we’ve been talking about college so much, whether about missing it or getting into it, I thought I’d share what I would do differently at college if I knew then what I know now. (Of course, some of you know how I freak out about alternate timelines so this is only in the case that my current timeline wouldn’t be affected because if my action were to erase my three beautiful babies I would just GAH!!!)

Anyhow, my mild hysterics aside, here are some things I would change:

1) Study. I was a smart kid in high school and got by with minimal studying and relied mostly on my smarts. Unfortunately, what I failed to realize once I got into UCLA was that EVERYONE who got into UCLA was smart so I wasn’t anything special. Therefore, the students who actually studied would do better than the smart but lazy students. Futhermore, no matter how intelligent a person is, smarts are meaningless in the absence of actual knowledge. My being smart was useless since I didn’t have ANY knowledge about physics or advanced microbiology.

2) Change majors. I had this weird idea that being “Undeclared” was a highly laughable situation for hippies who wanted to “find themselves” and had nothing but contempt for them. I mocked people who kept changing majors but in reality, it was a case of “the lady doth protest too much.” Why was I so hung up on being consistent and faithful to a major that I didn’t really understand what it was when I chose it? I was sixteen years old when I applied for college. (I didn’t turn eighteen until my second year at UCLA so I was nicknamed “Jail Bait.”) Why would I expect my sixteen year old self to know ANYTHING about majors and what they entailed?

I don’t really know what I would’ve changed my major to. I knew pretty early on that I no longer wanted to go the Pre-Med route but was too afraid to tell my parents since I had convinced them to let me go to UCLA on account of UCLA having a great medical school. I was worried that if I changed my major, my parents would tell me to transfer to Cal (which was far too close to my parents’ house for my liking).

It’s not that I didn’t like Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, it’s just that everything was so SMALL and required a microscope. And looking into microscopes make me nauseous because of the constant changing depth of field when going back and forth between the microscope and my lab book. It made me motion sick. I should’ve taken that as a sign.

However, looking back, I would’ve liked to switch to Chemistry (I found that endlessly fascinating but was terrified of Physical Chemistry so I chickened out) or Psychology (too bad I thought it was such a pseudoscience at the time). Or Asian American Studies (which screams, “Hire me”) or Business (I didn’t want to take more math). And now that I’m older, perhaps even Computer Science (at the time, I didn’t even understand what programming was – just that I wasn’t some geeky Asian dude who played video games all day or the fact that my father said I wasn’t smart enough to do it).

3) Get a job. Technically, I had a job as a Program Assistant my senior year but I didn’t really do anything and am surprised I kept my job all year long. I didn’t know how to do interviews. (I showed up to an interview in glasses, barely combed hair, a thermal long-sleeved shirt, and torn jeans. I also marked that I had a misdemeanor because I thought a speeding ticket was a misdemeanor. One of my friends who was really good at her job was completely appalled that that was how I showed up. She coached me so I could actually get the PA job.) I didn’t know how to write a resume. I didn’t have confidence that I could do anything at all – so having a low stakes job in college would’ve been really helpful. However, I was convinced my parents didn’t want me to work and focus only on my studies, so I never asked. (Sense a theme, here?)

4) Be less self-righteous and rigid with my beliefs. Granted, I graduated when I was twenty so as a teenager, I thought I knew everything. I was convinced that I had being a Christian all figured out and that my parents were total hypocrites and Pharisees (when really, so was I!) and was such an ungrateful little shit. Besides, it’s really easy to be all “Jesus loves everyone and we should give all our money to the poor” when you have never worked an honest day’s wages in your entire life and had everything handed to you on a silver platter. (I went to UCLA during the dotcom boom so we were pretty flush.)

5) Not be so obsessed with boys and being in a relationship. How many hours of my life did I waste on drama with boys? GAH. So stupid. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Some of the boys were fine people. (Many were not.) But how sad that I focused so much of my self-worth and time on boys instead of myself? LAME.

6) Pursued interests other than my Christian Fellowship. I loved my Christian fellowship (InterVarsity). I learned so much about Jesus and most of my conviction about social justice came from them. However, they were not the only things I loved or cared about. I wish I had taken the lead role in a musical my senior year instead of turning it down. (I said it was because God wanted me to spend more time with non-Christians on my floor, but really, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to memorize all those lines and songs and would fail in a spectacularly public way.) Instead of letting InterVarsity take over my entire life, I wish I had the strength to pursue other interests without bowing to the pressure (whether intentional or not) to do EVERYTHING InterVarsity.

Sadly, like so much of my life, much of my decisions in college were influence by fear. If there is one thing I am realizing my blog is about more and more, it’s about living a life without fear. Who knows what I could’ve become had I not been so afraid of my parents, my self, or other people’s opinions? Alas, I will never know. But it definitely encourages me to live my life NOW without fear.

What would you do differently?