Your weekend assignment

In grade seven, we were given a list of thought-provoking questions to think through for an assignment. I don’t remember the subject, or why exactly we were doing this, but I still remember one of the questions clearly. It went something like this:

If you had the opportunity to have the most amazing year of your life, to experience and see everything you’d ever wanted, but upon your return you’d remember none of it – would you do it?

At the time I immediately said yes. In fact, I thought this was an absolutely silly question. Why wouldn’t I want to have the best year of my life? What was I missing? It sounded fantastic and that bit at the end about not remembering seems pretty inconsequential.

But even then I figured there had to be more to it, something I wasn’t fully grasping yet, or this question wouldn’t have been asked. So despite my emphatic answer, the question of why not stayed with me.

As with most things, I’m far less clear on my answer now than I was in grade seven. I think I needed more experiences under my belt before the real challenge of this question become clear. What is an experience really it if it doesn’t become a part of you? The idea of taking something with you seems to be built right into the word.

I think being able to relive your experiences and have a story to tell are not just a nice side benefit, I think they can be a key motivator to a lot of what we do. We’ve all seen those people on vacation who stop their car at a view-point, snap a quick picture (sometimes without even bothering to get out of their car), and never actually see the view except through a lens. Apparently seeing the thing is not nearly as important as telling the story that you were there.

I’ll admit to getting caught up behind my camera lens sometimes. Like on our honeymoon when we were on a boat cruise and a huge pod of spinner dolphins came all around us. I got so caught up trying to get a good picture of them jumping out of the water that I forgot to actually look around. Luckily before they were gone I realized that I wasn’t going to make a meaningful contribution to the world of dolphin photography that day, so I left the camera danging around my neck and actually looked around me. After all, these particular dolphins were only special to me because they were right there for me to see with my own eyes – I couldn’t very well take that away.

My attempt at dolphin photography

I’m trying to make more of a conscious effort to keep my mind in the moment, instead of contemplating over it just so I can try to live it later. The effort started when our wedding was approaching and I was determined to quiet down my ridiculously over-analytical mind* and just soak it in. After all, I only actually get to live it the one time – everything else is just imagination, coloured by other experiences before and since.

Despite my big words about trying to live in the moment, I would hesitate to answer yes to that question today. I guess I’ve also realized that there are plenty of moments in my life when I just don’t feel like keeping my mind in the present and I need all the great memories I can muster.

Like when it’s just another dreary Thursday night, I’m tired and yet again suffering from a tension-headache, and I just don’t have the energy to drag myself off the couch to clear the dishes let alone go to the gym like I promised myself I would. On those nights I appreciate that my mind can wander off to that amazing cabin on our honeymoon where I felt the most relaxed I ever have in my life and to the sauna on the lake in Finland where I’ll get to be this summer with John and my mom.

So, what do you think? Would you do it?

* When I was quite young I asked my mom if our minds ever quiet down, or if they are always going non-stop like mine seemed to. Apparently my little brain was already overloaded – I’m guessing with Barbie-house plans and candy savings accounts. I’m not even kidding.

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Posted on February 18, 2011, in Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Dude, what good is having experiences if you can’t remember them and learn from them? I don’t think I would do it — but of course that’s me saying it now. If I’d been in 7th grade when I was asked the question, I might have answered similarly to your 7th grade self. And I feel like I’ve dropped off of taking pictures for the same reason. Just yesterday we went into the wine country for a day and I took my camera but never took any pictures. I think I’ve finally figured out that no photo I can take can make it look as good as it does to me in that moment.

    Love the picture of the sauna! Holy crap, that was taken at midnight!

    Great post!

  2. This is such a FABulous post. I need this reminder a lot.

  3. All I can say is THE SAUNA! I have always wanted one after experiencing one in the Upper Penninsula.

  4. Great post.

    I have really slowed down in picture taking too. I’ve been thinking about the balance of being in the moment and “capturing” it for a while now. Started a post months and months ago (last summer?), but haven’t gotten too far with it yet… Oops. :)

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