The 4th of July
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.” ― Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer became my favorite author the minute I got done reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Before being handed that book, I knew nothing about him. In fact, the person who wanted me to read the book didn’t give me a choice. The stubborn self was resistant, don’t tell me what to do! Thankfully I obliged them and as a result I fell in love for the second time in my life.
Foer constructs ordinary people but paints their world view with the most vibrant colors. He strings words to create garlands and gives you a unique peek into the inner workings of his characters. His words strike a chord with me, and if you were to look in my book of quotes you’d find that almost all of my favorite quotes come from his books. The quote above is not one of my favorites, for a long time I found the words beautiful but they meant nothing to me.
Sitting on my friend’s porch on the 4th of July this year, this quote danced into my head and it clicked. The sun hadn’t fully set but fireworks were already starting to go off. Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan was playing in the background and while some were watching fireworks others were lighting sparklers. I remember watching everyone and everything with absolute awe, everything was just so beautiful. Though I wouldn’t call what was happening then and there extraordinary, it is a moment that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life.
Taking all the things that were going on around me, my brain started to race to all the places where I could have been. Fireworks were going off all around us, I could have been in any of those places having an equally grand time or a phenomenally worse experience. Had I made other plans I wouldn’t have seen any of this, but could I have had a magical time somewhere else? The answer to that is probably yes, sure I could have, but then I wouldn’t have been surrounded by the people that I’m happy to call friends.
When I read Foer’s quote, there’s a negative connotation there, a fear of missing out or perhaps wanting to do more things than any one person is capable of doing. Though I live in my head more often than not, imagining this or that, I’m grateful for those things that have and have not happened. Though my anxiety sometimes takes the reigns, I’ve gone on some badass adventures with some badass people. There are nights of doing nothing, either on my own or with people that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
So yes, there are a million lives that none of us are living, but we can’t do anything about the ones we’re not living, only about the one that we are. What does it take to make this life what we want it to be? I’m guilty of seeing the grass as being greener everywhere but here, but as I get older I’m finding that to rarely be true. What it really comes down to is perspective, how we choose to see what’s right before us.
Hope everyone had a great 4th!