My Entire Life Has Led Me to this Moment.

My entire life has led me to this moment.

You may have thought this yourself at your college graduation. They told you it was one of the great accomplishments of your young life, one of those momentous occasions you’ll remember forever. It’s been about a month since graduation season here in Austin, but my nostalgia gland is still secreting… something.
    I went to a Methodist university. Not because I’m religious (I’m not), but because they gave me scholarship money. I expected some famed pastor, a Methodist Billy Graham, to give the commencement speech. Instead, we got Elie Wiesel. Wait, THE Elie Wiesel? Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor? Nobel Peace Prize recipient? Author of required (and powerful) grade school read Night? “Oh my god, this is incredible!” I thought. This was going to be huge.
    As it happened, I remembered not a word of his address that afternoon. Was it even afternoon? Could have been morning, I don’t remember that either. The words passed straight through me like wind through a screen door. I have one vague memory of the day, sitting among my robe-draped brethren and gazing toward the stage, anxious to get the thing over. That’s it.
    How is it possible that I remember nothing of Wiesel’s address? Nothing of this “momentous” occasion? Simple. I didn’t pay attention.
    I remember very little from my 17 years of schooling. I was just going through the motions, focused on what I was “supposed to” do. Staying on track and in line. Years later, I realized I hadn’t paid attention to great swaths of my personal life either.
    I had trouble keeping up with my friend’s lives. I forgot about job transitions, names of family members, whether their dog had died or they had given it away. My worry-brain vacillated between “Oh god, I’m a terrible friend!” and “Oh god, it’s early-onset Alzheimer’s!” The explanation was simpler: I wasn’t paying attention.
    My entire life has led me to this moment.
    The realization was revolutionary: if you want to remember something, you need to be actively present for the moment in which it is happening. Milestones don’t mean much if you’ve forgotten how you reached them.
    “My entire life has led me to this moment.” I say it as a joke now, usually when I’m doing something mundane. But it draws attention the moment at hand. Also, it’s absolutely true, no matter how profound or absurd the activity. I’m putting gas in the car — my entire life has led me to this moment. I’m waiting in the wings before a performance at Carnegie Hall — my ENTIRE LIFE has led me to this moment. I’m on the toilet, clenching my teeth in acute digestive distress — MY ENTIRE LIFE HAS LED ME TO THIS MOMENT!
    Your life hasn’t led up to your game-winning pass senior year — that’s in the past. It hasn’t led up to your big promotion next month — that’s in the future. This moment — look around — is where your life has led you. Whether you reach the goals you set or you don’t, your life is still there. Which is pretty liberating.
    Your life is the thing that’s in front of you, not the thing in your head. Learning this has been the actual great accomplishment of my [not as] young life. Pay attention, they said. Now I know why.