I think the most beautiful advice I have ever been given is to look at life only as a multitude of presents, meaning there are no yesterdays, no tomorrows, no later-ons, no soons, just a whole bunch of nows. For the past week I was in the mountains of Yosemite with my family on vacation, a place I have been going to with my mom’s side of the family since I was born every year. When I was younger I would look forward to going to Yosemite, or how I pronounced it “yo somebody” because it was a giant play ground, and I was hyperactive. The mountains were a place for me to escape from the confinements of a school desk and to play with my cousins. At the age of 22 I am still in love with the mountains, the rivers, and not surprisingly, still hyperactive, but as I grow older I find myself more entranced by the people I am surrounded by on these vacations. I find that nature has a way of helping people open up, of humbling them in a way.
Vividly I can remember staying up till 1 am one night in my cabin talking to my dad. I am blessed to have the relationship I have with my dad, one of smart-ass comments and a love of learning. We were bantering back and forth about the stupidity of characters in Jurassic World, remarking on how many times I had fallen off my bike mountain biking (it was more than once), and then somehow we ended up talking about his family. My dad is the youngest boy and second youngest of six siblings, which is amazing to me because it is just my younger sister and I that make up our family. We started talking about my grandpa, my dad’s dad, and it eventually ended up my dad telling me all these crazy and most of the time dangerous stories of his childhood. My grandpa died when I was in middle school and because he lived in Texas, our relationship never truly developed before he died. I am sad that I was not able to get to know the person who raised my father, whose blood runs through me so to speak, and also who lived a life that went unnoticed by most people, yet none the less was extraordinary.
The most prominent thing I learned that still floats like a ghost in my mind is something my dad told me that night in the cabin. My grandpa was a doctor, more specifically a pathologist. He worked long hours and weekends to support his family, but when he wasn’t working, he was an unsung hero. Now I was raised Catholic and no longer practice my faith, but my grandpa never missed a day of church. My dad told me that the Catholic church gave my grandpa the right to bless the bodies of unborn babies or fetus’s of aborted babies. With a clear face my dad told me he had asked his father when he was younger why he did this, why he took the time to bless these small beings before they were cremated, and he said simply and stably, “because I think someone should look after them, I think someone should care.”
It amazes me how many things I do not know about my grandpa still, but more amazingly, how little I know about the world and the people around me. So often I walk around with two eyes and hands glued to my phone, waiting for the next text message, while at the same time walking past individual’s carrying stories potentially like the one about my grandpa, and they are not heard. Now I am not saying texting people is not important, but after not having service for a week, it was refreshing to speak and listen, rather than type and read. The stories weren’t abbreviated, emojied, or shortened, they were raw, real, and full of emotion. They were present.
My past week was filled to the brim with advice on how to follow my dream, how to have stability in my life, how to sneak out of the house, and more importantly, how to be happy. Day by day we walk around afraid to reach out and talk to those around us, it is like a social stigma has arisen around conversations between two people who do not know each other and this makes me crazy! As human beings we are naturally curious, yet how are we supposed to learn if we are only surrounding ourselves by the same people, by the same conversations, and by the same perspectives. The answer is we can’t learn this way. It took me 22 years to hear these stories about my grandpa and the special mark he left in the world, and I know he is not the only one who lived a humble life. As I said earlier life is a series of presents, and in order to fully be in the present, you must simply be there fully at the moment in what you are doing.
So turn off your phone, leave it at home, because the texts can wait, or better yet the call can wait. Listen to the people around you when they talk and make sure you listen to you when you are talking, because after graduating from college I know for a fact most of us are not as skilled as we think we are in multitasking. Stay focused and sharp to the conversations. Talk to strangers. Ask how the cashier at the grocery store is doing. Ask how the lady making your coffee is doing. At the end of the day the connections we have with those around us, the ones we love and enjoy being around, those are all formed because we share with one another- our thoughts, perspectives, memories, food, money, etc. So what is more important than sharing the present, these small moments that make up our lives? 7 billion people all saw today in a different way, lets talk about it.