These words have echoed in my mind ever since I read them years ago in J.D. Salinger’s book, Catcher in the Rye. They are not delivered from the mouths of any of his characters, but they appear again and again like an anthemic reflection on existence:
Life goes on.
We know that time is as fluid as the water. It slows down to a standstill, formed a puddle when you wish you could get things over with, and rushes by in a blur when you wish things would last. We all hold on to something in the past, and a part of us all wish we could just turn back the time and teleport us back to our childhood days when everything seems so simple.
But alas, time does not wait for anyone. It passes like clouds in the sky. Weeks and months go by as if they were a single day. Summer fades to fall, winter yields to spring and in the blink of an eye, we are all afraid that we will all be old and wrinkly. All of us fear growing old as we can gradually feel the taste of mortality in our mouth, and at that instant, we somehow understood that we are not going to live forever. The passage of time is like a flint of a torch light in the dark, flickers only for but a second.
Now, knowing that time does not stand still, we have to start owning our days and live them, each one of them, or else the years go by, and none of them will belong to us. The houses that we built may crumble, the companies that we worked for or even built, may disappear, the love of our life may leave us and even our children may disown us, the money we earn all our life may disappear in an instant. The question is then what legacy we will leave behind for the world to remember us by when we go back to dust.
To be honest, only a tiny fraction of us (like around 0.000001% of the world population) will leave something that the world will remember by be it good or bad. As my class valedictorian, I had the privilege of speaking before my fellow graduating class, and with all the naivety of my younger days, I talked about the bright future that awaits all of us. I wish I had known things better then and told them the truth that about half of them have gone as far in life as they’re ever going to. Maybe they would have learned how to lower down their expectations and avoid disappointment. The remaining half will perhaps go a bit further, a steady job, get married, have children, and may look bliss on the outside. But, who will paint another Mona Lisa, find a cure for bird flu, fly to the moon? Maybe none? And how many will find true love? Maybe one?
For the rest of us, the 99.999999% of the world population, we all try to live the life that was handed to us and fight the good fight. We started with our first job which became our second and eventually we will lose count how many jobs we had as we never feel satisfied in any jobs that we have had. We started with our first love which was precious, but there will always be something missing, the void that will lead to a break-up until we eventually lose count how many so-called “the one” we have had until one day, we just married anyone scared that we will end up alone.
At this point in my life, I am jealous of children as they never think of the future. Their innocence leaves them free to enjoy themselves compared to us adults. The day we begin to worry about the future is the day we leave our childhood behind. I want to go back to the time when I could be like Alice in the start of her adventure asking the Cheshire cat where she should go. Because NOW, I finally understand that every decision has its consequence and adulthood can be one nasty mess if we make the wrong choice. When I first read Catcher in the Rye, I could not identify myself with Holden as the only thing that I wanted when I was young was to be free to go off to some other world, a place beyond anybody’s reach. But after over two decades I finally get him as I am well into my adulthood and have lost every tiny droplet of innocence in my system and life for me has been a bit comical sometimes, a satirical laugh and an ironical twist of expectations, more of a paradox, a bittersweet concoction. But such is life and it goes on.