At age fifteen, my grade ten high school class went away on a weekend trip. I forget most of the trip itself, but what I do remember is the bus ride home. In fact, my mind has come back to this bus ride many times over the years, and many of my closest friends have heard this story ad nauseum. What happened on this bus ride, you logically ask next?
Well, I was listening to the Counting Crows album August and Everything After on my black and blue Sony discman. I was in the window seat, staring into the darkness outside, when my favorite song, Mr. Jones, started playing through my headphones. I remember this indescribable feeling of ecstasy come over me. I felt alive. I felt liberated. I felt really good. Any troubling thoughts I might have had disappeared. I was convinced that all was okay in my life and that this moment was proof that it always would be. If only I could just harness that emotion more frequently …
That was all. Yes - that is the moment I have come back to for so many years. I came to fixate on, and dare I say, obsess, over that moment and crave more of that same feeling for years to come. I searched for that same feeling on many a bus ride and late-night drive with music blaring from the sound system, singing along at full volume. And occasionally that same feeling would even return. But most times it would not.
But I wonder what that moment on the bus in grade ten was really like. I wonder what I actually felt, and for how long, during that short drive? If the few similar moments I’ve experienced since are any indication, it’s likely the moment lasted no more than five minutes. Yet that five minutes sent me on a lifelong quest to seek more moments like that, epiphanous moments of euphoria.
Moments can be beautiful. But the perseveration over past moments and the search for similar future moments can be dangerous. Events often do not become the “moments” we remember them to have been until long after they have passed. Time and nostalgia can work wonders on transforming our memories of certain moments and emotions into completely different events and feelings. So when you search for that moment you’ve come to value so highly, you may actually be searching for a moment that perhaps never even existed. And if it did exist, you might have exaggerated the emotion you once felt, or the duration for which you felt it.
How many opportunities have been squandered for not living up to that “perfect feeling” we believe we once felt in a past instance? How many romantic relationships were doomed from the start, because we were searching for that same magical “first kiss” we felt with someone else years ago? How many times were we let down by a conversation, because it didn’t hold up to the heart-to-heart deep dive we once shared with someone else, when we bared our soul to someone into the late hours of the night until the sun began to rise?
And was that “first kiss” even as magical as we thought it was? And was the emotion invoked by that late-night conversation even how we recall it? Or did those moments only become those moments with the passage of time? And did the potency of those feelings only develop with nostalgia?
Don’t get me wrong – I am not diminishing that grade ten bus ride. I cherish it. Nor am I invalidating those other similarly beautiful but brief moments of life. I still relish my late-night drives and wonder whether that same Mr. Jones-like ecstasy will hit me. But perhaps by letting go of my perceived perfection of those moments, I was able to stop searching for them so fervently. And as I’ve quieted the search, perhaps my likelihood of having those moments I once sought so badly has increased.
Moments are exactly that – moments, fleeting moments that pass, mere seconds of our existence that encompass but a short time of our lives. Perhaps the best we can do is embrace the beauty of those moments in their present, and once they are over, allow them to live in the past, with fondness. For more beautiful moments will surely follow, but in unexpected time and ways.