Monday, 22 September 2008

The space in between

As I straightened the mass of curls that live on top of my head this evening, my thoughts drifted down a strange direction. I began wondering about all the milestones that have occurred in my life and in the lives of those I care about. There have been births, deaths, baptisms, communions, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, vacations and so forth... Each of these moments have, at some point or another, been highly anticipated in each of our lives.

We anticipate the birth of a baby, for about nine months. We start thinking about birthdays at least a month to a few weeks ahead of the actual date. There's a countdown clock to almost any event we look at as a milestone.

My thoughts today headed down this direction: I recognized that people looked forward to milestones - setting them apart as corners in our otherwise routine-filled lives. In some capacity or another, we all have them. For some, these milestones may occur more frequently than for others... but the idea is still the same. When one comes by, it causes a shift in our lives - even if only momentarily.

So this evening, as I straightened curl after curl after curl, I started thinking about the moments in between these milestones.

"What about them?" you may ask.

Well, I wondered if people paid attention to the hundreds of unrecognized moments that make up our lives from the minute we wake up, to the time our eyes shut at night. I wondered if we spent our lives so caught up in anticipating future milestones, that we failed to recognize present... presents.

For instance, I thought about something that happened to me this weekend. I spent my Saturday at a conference filled with journalists at one of the local universities downtown. It was an amazing weekend because it got me excited about the future. Since most of the people attending this conference were already in the field, it allowed me to anticipate a day when I too would be "one of them." I came home feeling excited about the future and about all the possibilities.

But it wasn't until I consciously thought about it this evening, that I remembered the older gentleman (an editor, from what happened to be a "small-town paper") who smiled at me in one of the seminars. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but I realize now that he acknowledged my presence at a conference where I did not feel I deserved to be, as a student. He talked to me and asked about my plans and aspirations. In a room where everyone was trying (not so subtly) to out-word one another, he gave me a few minutes of his time. he recognized that I was at the very beginning stages of what looked to be a very "exciting career," according to him.

Soon after this brief encounter, we turned to the front of the room, listened to the lecturer talk for an hour and a half, smiled at each other as we exited the room and headed down separate hallways... I forgot about this encounter very quickly as I became enraged at the lady who made me feel very inadequate, about half an hour after this experience. Somehow, a woman looking down her nose at me for not being an alumnus of her own university trumped the encounter with the older man.

Anyway, I guess I wondered why I didn't give the moment that made me feel good about myself more thought. Shouldn't we hold on to moments like those to get us through the times when we become our own worst critics? I know I should. My conversation with that man was no more than friendly banter between two strangers who ended up sitting beside each other in a lecture hall built for 30.

However, it was a moment... a small token... something that I will treasure as I move forward. It will be something I shall look back upon and smile. There will be no photos to mark the occasion, nor will I be celebrating the anniversary of that conversation a month or a year from now. But it will be one of the hundreds of 'unforgettable moments' that will make me smile during the dark days.

And I think those moments deserve more attention than they get. Those moments are continuous. They don't occur at a specific time or in a specific place. Those moments are the ones that sneak up on us when we least expect them to. The least we could do is pay attention when they happen.


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