Pedestrians of Our Own Lives

đź’¬ Highlights:

  • There seems to be an interesting connection between forming our first memories and forgetting each day as an adult.
  • As we grow up, we lose our wonderment towards everyday life.
  • Avoid deriving a sense of purpose from life’s big accomplishments.

Minor trigger advisory: this piece makes a few sporadic references to faith. As we’ve made clear in the past, we have no desire to push those on other people.

“Pedestrians of Our Own Lives”

Volume 2, Number 2

Back in school, I remember having a friend who insisted that he could remember being born. He was the competitive sort, especially when it came to one-upping others in experiences and smarts, so despite my pension for giving people the benefit of the doubt, I am still skeptical. He is not the only one, though; a subset of the human population also believes they possess memories prior to birth. Sentience, without so much as glimpse beyond the barrier of protection that is the womb? That’s hard for me to believe. The passage of time, that sudden stream of memories flooding our brain, and our very own purpose — our first great awakening — it all comes together in a funny way I cannot fully comprehend.

For me it happened when I was four years old, which, according to everyone I’ve talked to, is extraordinary late in development for someone to have their first memory. I posit that I just didn’t have anything “interesting” enough happen to me before that fateful day when Hurricane Opal hit the Southeastern United States.

Regardless, from that point on my mind is a veritable tape recorder of events proceeding linearly from that point on. My dad taking me with him, dove hunting in the aftermath of the storm. Leaning up against a severed tree having a photograph taken — one which is still hanging in my grandparent’s house to this day. Going with my mom to buy my baseball-themed nap mat, and crying on my first day of Kindergarten. Watching the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. with my mom on television. Having my very first experience with God while riding back from seeing my cousins, and praying to be saved later that day.

Oh, and by “complete coincidence,” the Tom and Jerry episode “Heavenly Puss” — the one about Heaven and Hell — airing on Cartoon Network that very afternoon. I will link to it here, but just know that episode is quite literally the scariest cartoon I have ever seen. I’m still unable to watch it without welling up inside.

For many of us, as childhood fades, a tragedy strikes somewhere around the burdening of life-impacting responsibilities. The crystal-clear wonderment of everyday life just… stops. The days become truly episodic, and it can be difficult to differentiate one day from the next.

Do you remember what I said about life not being interesting enough before the age of four for me to remember? Here’s the thing: I’ve kept myself up at night lately wondering if the same thing doesn’t happen to many of us as adults. Call it a simple message, and indeed it probably is. Many times writers like me go into these pieces in search of some deeper meaning with the hope that, through self-discovery, we can attain something “deep” we can pass on to our audience. Often, though, the simplest truths are the most profound.

We become pedestrians of our own lives, just trying to get from point to point. What is it like to be a pedestrian — with nothing else to do but look at the destination ahead of us and hold our breath? We’ve become masters at distracting ourselves to make time pass quickly. What is it like to be pedestrian — lacking inspiration or excitement in our lives? Surely there must be a way to appreciate everyday life with enthusiasm. Because, and I truly hope this sinks in, the journey is all we have in this life. Spiritual beliefs of life in the next aside, here and now we have but one real destination: death. One day — and my genuine hope is that with the ever-increasing human healthspan and lifespan that day is in the distant future — we will experience our last sight of this amazing place. We’ll move on to what awaits us, and our stories will be rendered into history.

Thus, I believe there is one more great awakening not everyone achieves: that of being determined to have a purpose in life beyond merely passing through. There is something so much greater than transitioning from one part of life to the next. What that looks like must be different for each person, but one thing is for sure — it irrevocably turns one from a pedestrian into a participant. Goals are absolutely essential for accomplishing great things, which I know many of you will. But in the process of meeting those goals, it is absolutely essential to avoid deriving purpose strictly from life’s checkpoints. Meeting those accomplishments will happen, but it is what happens in between those checkpoints that truly counts.

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  1. You’re right about the mundanity of everyday life not really being “worth” remembering in some instances, but one of the side-effects of writing pretty much every day in one form or another since… about 2010 or so, I guess (and sporadically before that)… is that I can remember roughly when certain relatively unremarkable things happened. Or, well, at least I can remember roughly when I wrote a particular thing, which may or may not have coincided with something vaguely interesting happening that day.

    I’m okay with not every day being especially remarkable. I think I’d be overwhelmed if I had to carry the weight of 37 years’ worth of memories with me. For better or worse (and make no mistake, it’s a bit of both!), it’s the most powerful memories that stick with me… though my brain’s definition of “powerful” and what other people might consider to be significant sometimes varies, as I’ve come to discover over time!

    Liked by 1 person

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