“Someday we are going to grow old, and when we do, I’d like to know we did our very best at being young.”
For spending the greater part of this life in Southern California, I find it odd that some cosmic force never drew me to Joshua Tree. It has always been there, always talked about, those trees like soldiers spread across the desert floor. So, this jaunt felt equal parts fated and haphazard like any good adventure should: like meeting an old friend of a friend whom you’ve heard so much about over the years, you feel like you already know them. It’s so nice to finally meet you in person. These images were taken on our last morning, just before heading home. One last strike for just a little more fun, because lately I haven’t stopped moving, as if I’ve got something to prove or gather for my future self.
I had a teacher who once told me, “the irony of growing old is we rarely look forward to the person we are going to become, always behind at the one we were, wishing we knew then what we inevitably only know now. We fail to acknowledge that now will soon be a then, and your future self will hold you today somewhat responsible for everything.” The irony is not lost on me anymore. I think more about her day to day. I think about having tea with my later self and how she might look at me. Because being thirty feels like an apex at all times, a kind of awareness I thankfully wasn’t given any earlier. It’s an omnipresent something saying, “Do it now, or do it never.” An awareness of time you can’t shake because it’s always shaking you.
For the last eight months I have not been in the same place for longer than a week, maybe two at the very most. If I am going to become someone new I’d like to know that I did everything I could as myself right now. Time didn’t always feel like this, but you learn to wrap your arms around the strange as the years go by. I stopped telling myself I should be a certain kind of woman and I started living like I wasn’t going to live forever. I stopped using the word should. Because the only thing I should be is reaching with strained arms and eyes for everything to be had out of being alive. I can only hope I am doing my future self some justice in this madness kind of present day. I hope that when we get where we are going she understands why, she looks at pictures like this and has nothing but a welling kind of joy for this time. And just in case she cannot remember, I wrote her this….
“In case you cannot remember how it felt to be right now, or if you carry with you some form of regret or confusion, or anything other than pure joy about this strange and fragmented part of your life…. let me remind you. It felt really fucking good, and everything we did came from this hungry and reaching part of us that wanted to see more, taste more, do more than we ever imagined possible. And we did. This was the same year you stitched your heart back together, fell in love, swam in seven seas, and learned rum can cure bug bites.
You were exhausted and dirty, with cracked dry lips and always hungry. For months on end there had been nothing but goodness and nakedness and swimming in seas and taking long drives to the desert late at night, reading books in coffee shops you’d only see once. And right around this time people near you started talking about what might happen next, like it was something you should choose on or more so worry about. And in those conversations the idea of getting older became such a constant presence that you became convinced if you never stopped moving you might be able to outrun it, like that might solve something.
I don’t suppose it was true, or that we were capable of such a thing. So, I do hope it’s some kind of consolation prize for growing old, all of this ground we’ve covered. And I hope you remember that while you running there was never anything, ever, that felt better.”
It’s an interesting idea and I am not the only one to ever have it. But when I meet myself again later down the road it will be work like this, and trips like Joshua Tree, that stand like totems across my own desert floor: pillars of where we went and who we were, and all the things I will wish I would have known right now.