One of the things I appreciate about Kemp (da boyfrand, as I’ve previously discussed) is that sometimes he is blatantly honest with me and says something I don’t want to hear, even though it’s exactly the thing I need to hear.
This happened a few weeks ago.
We were wandering through Washington, DC on one of the hottest, stickiest days of the summer in late July. Kemp lives in DC (but he moves to NYC next week!) and I am from the area, so the city is familiar to both of us. It was late afternoon and the sun was setting over the trees, and I was telling Kemp about my desire to start living even more intentionally than I already do. (This was one of the conversations that spurred me on in my aspirations to start this blog!) I told him I didn’t want my 20s to slip away before I took the time to fully live them.
“Good,” he said. “Lately I’ve noticed you aren’t doing that as much. You’re just checking boxes.”
This surprised me a great deal. I asked him to continue.
“It’s like you’re going through the motions. Even with the adventures you’ve had lately – it’s like you’re doing them because you feel like you should and you’re not really enjoying them or soaking them in,” he continued. “You need to lean back and be present.”
When I started to think about it, I knew he was right. I had been pretty bad about fully being anywhere, even when I was trying a new food for the first time or experiencing a free event with a friend. Sure, I was doing my best to get out there and break my daily routine. But I wasn’t leaning into the moment, taking it all in, resting in the joy of being alive. I was going to the place I wanted to go to, doing the thing I came to do, and then leaving. But I wasn’t relishing what was right in front of me.
I decided to change that.
If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that I went to a Sufjan Stevens concert a few weeks ago. Coincidentally, the concert happened the night I had this conversation with Kemp. Sufjan’s music has carried me through so many times in life and I was so excited to see him. I decided I was going to really savor the concert, and I did.
From the moment we pulled up to venue to the moment we stepped off the grassy lawn, I was mesmerized by the moment. I stayed captivated by the movement of the dancers on stage, closed my eyes to take in the prettiest parts of the songs I liked best, admired the lights flickering across the faces of the crowd, danced with Kemp carelessly when the music got loud. I didn’t read or answer any texts, and I didn’t think about my to-do list or any of the stressors in my life. I was just there. Fully there. And it was just what I needed.
By leaning into the moment, I was able to make it shine. It stayed with me even afterwards as a favorite memory etched into my life story. I am so glad Kemp said what he said to me on that day, because otherwise I may have let the concert slip by, unheeded and undervalued.
I think we do this a lot as people, though. We forget that life is, as cheesy as it sounds, pretty magical, and that every second that passes by is a gift.
One of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, writes about this in his book called A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. He says it better than I ever could:
When you are born, you wake slowly to everything. Your brain doesn’t stop growing until you turn twenty-six, so from birth to twenty-six, God is slowly turning the lights on, and you’re groggy and pointing at things saying circle and blue and car and then sex and job and health care. The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering. What I’m saying is I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given — it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.
Life is staggering. And I plan to live it that way. I won’t make the mistake of simply going through the motions and checking off boxes anymore.
Has there ever been a time where you’ve suddenly realized you could live life better? What happened?