I first started playing the piano when I was five years old. It’s one of those obligatory skills that 90% of us Asian kids are expected to possess. I ended up loving it, but my earlier years were hell. Half an hour of practice was my daily ticket to half an hour of games. I remember glaring at the clock hanging above the piano, fervently willing it to tick away faster. What I eventually realized was that the longer and harder I stared at the clock, the slower it stumbled on. In the moments when I actually focused on matching the keys to the notes and playing music, minutes sprinted by like seconds. Time is an enigma: when you turn away it accelerates and when you look straight into its eyes, it comes to a screeching halt. But all the same it marches on, beat by beat, minute by minute.
I’m obsessed with time, if you haven’t already picked up on that. I’m intrigued by the various ways we interpret and experience its paradoxes. Time heals old wounds – missed opportunities, bad decisions, deaths of loved ones. Memories become fuzzier and pain becomes milder. But the gaping void left by those wounds only intensifies with time – your best friend getting the same job that you turned down years earlier; your son graduating from law school at the same age you went to rehab, exactly thirty years ago; other girls becoming mothers while your daughter stays seventeen forever. Time heals wounds; time reminds us of what we lost. We can either turn our backs on it or embrace it, but we can’t escape it. It’s bigger and more permanent than all our pains and joys and fears and hopes.
I’m afraid of time. I’m afraid of aging. Yes, it probably sounds stupid and naive from a nineteen year old college student, but I don’t doubt that years will fly by before I can catch my breath, and I don’t doubt that years from now I’ll want to revisit vignettes of my youth. I wish I could say I know exactly what kind of person I will be in ten, twenty, forty years’ time. But that’s just not true. The only certainty is that I will be a different person, but hopefully I can still find traces of nineteen year old self.
I’ll leave you with this quote by Marcel Proust:
“Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.”