On December 16th a movie titled Collateral Beauty will be released in theaters across the nation. After watching this trailer, I was inspired to write my own letters. Over the next three weeks you’ll get the chance to read them, share them, and hopefully to some degree connect with some of the experiences and sentiments I’m willing to voice.
Well this is far more awkward than I originally thought it would be. So like any decent human being, why not break the ice with a terrible pun: you probably know that eating clocks can be really time consuming – especially when you go back for seconds
I can imagine how crazy these days must be for you, I mean just yesterday it seems you opened your eyes to watch that big explosion in the universe that started this whole domino effect leading up to this very moment where I’m microwaving Thanksgiving leftovers while watching a YouTube compilation of balloons stuck to cats, attempting to write this daunting letter. Seriously, what a time to be alive.
(Ok, that’s the last one. I promise.)
I’ll admit that I’ve needed you more than ever lately. There have been nights when I can’t fall asleep, and I wonder if I’m wasting you while chasing after my passion for acting that might never come true, when I there’s a whole other purpose to my life I haven’t even realized yet. I’ve procrastinated and dawdled – afraid of completely making that leap from “young adult” to “adult” because there’s the possibility that I’ll fall.
So far I’ve only really known you for 24 years, which is more than some and far less than others. Yet unlike your other two siblings, you’re the only one that has constantly stayed with me – I know it sounds obvious to say but its true. You know it. I know it. You’ve seen it all, and you know it all before it even happens. But in these 24 years, I’ve come to realize certain things about you as well. For one – you are actually quite the good actor.
There are three roles that you take great pleasure in performing, each one making up your true character: Past, Present, and Future.
With Past you take on the persona of a long lost friend, giving off bittersweet sentiments of nostalgia and longing. Distantly I remember those watercolor days when everything was simple and limitless – all you really needed was imagination coupled with a little bit of magic and you’d be set. Hours spent playing nerf gun wars outside with friends, camping under the stars on summer nights, playing "Super Smash" on Nintendo 64, standing on the front of my father’s skiis as we raced down snowy mountainside were filled with joy from start to finish. Sometimes you let regret and sorrow seep in when we miss friends and family who are no longer here, like Pop, Lou, Uncle Gary, and Gam. And there must be something about the holidays that resonates with you because with each Christmas this version of you bursts into light with every ornament on the tree, every wreath, every traditional cookie bake-off, and even every version of "Little Drummer Boy" that’s blasted on the radio, which my grandmother for the life of her could not stand listening to.
Now with the Present, you’re not so innocent. From the moment that damn alarm clock blares, it's a cascade of pressing questions: Do I have time to shower, or just deodorant? Can I have a decent breakfast? Will the traffic make me late? How much time left until the deadline on that next paper? Will I make the payment for the electric bill on time? How can I make it to that audition across town in five minutes? The hours seem to pass by in a blur of action while I feel like I’m stuck on autopilot watching my life being lived out for me.
You’re unpredictable as the Present – some days feel like everything is coming up sunshine and rainbows, and then there are those days where I feel like I’m surrounded by a sea of Dementors and my patronus won’t shine, no matter how hard I try. There are times I’ve never felt more certain of the path I tread – and then there are those when I feel like I loose sight of the path entirely.
Then with the Future…well let’s just say that recently this vague personality of yours has become even more indistinct and inscrutable.
You can be selfish at times, stealing time away from people. Cutting it short through cancer, car accidents, or your good friend, Death – I’ve known people with such an incredible zeal for you, and used you wisely – only to have it all end abruptly. Why you allow this brash and blunt treatment, I will never know, at least not in this lifetime. You’re also unforgiving: if we missed an opportunity to do something, to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” to someone, to discover something new, or to even try something we’re afraid of – you make sure we remember through regret. Sure, we find a way to navigate around it and make sure we learn from it, but it's still there, lingering in our minds.
Yet at the same time another fact that I’ve come to realize about you is that without those “hard times” spent facing off against obstacles of all sizes, struggling to find our place in the world, we never fully appreciate what a true gift you are. You’ve given us this invaluable present measured in minutes, days, months, years – to completely and whole-heartedly embrace the fully dynamic of life. To do incredible things like surfing a wave, celebrate Mardi Gras, or traveling to South Africa. To feel the exhilaration of dancing, the power of a kiss, the joy in holding a newborn, and the embrace of a friend. To experience the power of true Love, in all its forms and shapes. To achieve dreams that seem so surreal and magical because of the tremendous amount of time we poured into the very pursuit of them. You’re always patient and reveal yourself to us only when you deem it necessary, no matter how frustrating it seems to us.
So Time, in the face of all the uncertainty and trepidation that we’re facing going into to 2017, I’m going to make a vow to you. These are promises that I intend to follow from now until we part ways as friends. I promise to cherish you, for good or for worse – after all that’s why the time now is called the “present”. I promise to no longer measure you by breaths, not seconds, in feelings, never years, in precious moments like now during Christmas, rather than figures on a dial. For it is these forms of measurement that truly define our character.
Those times in which I fail, it is simply time to begin an adventure anew. I promise to never let the pressing responsibilities of daily life distract me from the small, powerful minutiae of this life. To accept the fact that you fly by and yet I have the capacity to be the pilot. I promise to remember that complaining about you yesterday won’t change you tomorrow. Waiting for you won’t make you appear any faster; that responsibility for change lies with us.
We are the change we seek, and that we are the ones we are waiting for. There is never enough time to accomplish everything, but there is just enough for me to achieve the important things. And lastly, I promise that the life I lead will be my own and never someone else’s. That I will give all my effort to ensure that when I look back on my life, the regrets few and meager, while the rewards priceless and irreplaceable. Especially with the holidays upon us and Christmas it is important to realize just how powerful a gift you truly are, Time, to not only receive but to share with others around us. For in these present individual moments of ours await infinite doors of opportunity.