The Moving Sidewalk

On Monday night I experienced the strangest sensation. I had just gotten home from a fun activity and was deciding what to do next. As I considered my various options I couldn’t help but think about one of the views I had seen just minutes earlier. I was high up in the mountains and had a panoramic view of peaks stretching toward the night sky. Their edges were softened by clouds that glowed in starlight. The moon hovered somewhere in the background and cast an eerie glow on the snow. The sky couldn’t decide if it was gray, blue or black and each muted hue was very much alive. Everywhere I looked the landscape took turns reflecting and swallowing the light. The friends I was with couldn’t help but notice the beauty. I might not have noticed because I was watching my feet to be sure I wouldn’t slip on icy pavement. Someone even said it looked like an illustration from a children’s book. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Somehow, someway I was so pressed to put one foot in front of the other I couldn’t make myself slow down. A mysterious force drove me forward and I allowed myself to think, “Eh, this’ll still be here tomorrow.” In other words, “Why stop and look around when I would just be slowing everyone down? I’ve seen this before and I’ll see it again.” As I sat and thought about this in the warmth of my apartment I wondered if I could get back up there again but then I realized it was getting late and I’d better be off to other things. A few hours later I was trying to fall asleep and it hit me. That strange driving force that keeps pushing me no longer how much I want to stay still feels very much like a moving sidewalk. Moving sidewalks are fantastic in airports but those usually only last so long. This moving sidewalk that I’ve been thinking about is much more like a ride I can’t get off no matter how much I’d like to.

I feel like the closest approximation to this sidewalk sensation is the “tick, tock, tick” of time. I think about time a lot and how much our culture values punctuality and the worth of a minute, hour, or day. It can be easy to calculate our hourly rate and use it as a measure of our personal value. Even if we wanted to escape the influence of time, we’d most likely find it to be difficult. Every electronic device seems to come with a clock and let’s not even mention how attractive watches can be. (I’ll be the first to admit I have a weakness for Fossil watches.) My life runs on a pretty regimented schedule (in fact I’m stressing out right now because I know I’m not going to be asleep by midnight) and I feel like having a routine keeps me sane. On the nights when my body does not cooperate with my schedule (and there have been many lately) I writhe in frustration because I know I have to fall asleep or I’ll be out of it the next day. It must be because I know how detrimental a poor night’s sleep is for me.

Setting sleep (and the lack thereof) aside, even the most relaxing vacations seem to be dominated by time. I’ve been on two really great seven night cruises and although each day I was free to do whatever I wanted, I couldn’t help but think, “Only five days left… Only four days left…” Much like the powerful engines that drove our ship forward, the moving sidewalk kept me gliding along. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was on a rocky mountain road or the smooth Caribbean Sea. I have a hard time allowing my desire to have fun outweigh the constant countdown of how much fun is left. As dread wells within me I find it is best to completely ignore the fact that my fun days are numbered. Inevitably I can’t help but count how many hours are left.

Typing out these thoughts is making me realize I’m super stressed out. It could just be the end of a hard week but I really think this is my outlook on life. Amazing things happen constantly and it is hard not to let memories slip away as time passes. No matter how hard I try to hold onto even the best memories, a few manage to escape my fingers and slide over the handrail. I turn back and look but the moving sidewalk keeps rolling. I promise myself, “I’ll remember,” but the memories only get further away. Luckily they rarely seem lost forever. Family members, friends and familiar faces always jog my memory and I often laugh out loud when long forgotten moments come racing back. Sometimes I just sit and reflect on the past but even in these still moments, the moving sidewalk is inching me ever onward.

A few days ago I wondered if there was a way to beat the sidewalk. I think the people who try the hardest find themselves living in the past. Reaching for past glory, longing for vitality, and aching for simpler times is an exhausting endeavor. It’s like making a 180-degree turn on a moving sidewalk: now you’re on a treadmill. While it can be tempting to march backwards, you’ll be taking three steps backward for every two steps forward. You will still turn a new age every 365 days and responsibility will continue to accumulate on your shoulders. The only difference will be your perspective. Although I might not like the moving sidewalk and I’ll always be looking for the point at which I can get off, I think it’s much better to face the future and hold on for the ride.

Thinking back on the amazing display of light riddling the mountains and snow with stardust and shadow, I can hear a quiet hum beneath my feet. I’m not worried about sliding on ice. In fact, I’m standing quite still. There’s not a chill in the air. It feels quite sheltered in here and I’m holding onto a handrail that’s slightly warm to the touch. My left hand grips the handle of a wheeled suitcase. I must be going somewhere but I’m not exactly sure where. Maybe I’m just watching it for someone. My surroundings are quite plain until I see a window up ahead. I enter a tunnel of glass and everywhere I look there is a winter spectacle of nature’s transfixing beauty. The far edge of the glass catches my eye and I know this is a temporary scene. Still, I manage to soak it in and capture it in my mind before the windowsill approaches and closes my view. In that same moment I feel a chill emanate from my right hand. I open it and find a perfect snowflake carved from ice. It’s rather uncomfortable to hold so I decide to put it in my suitcase. I search for a zipper or pocket but there are none to be found. There is no choice but to hold the memory in my hand. As I wonder who saddled me with this useless suitcase the snowflake begins to drip.



It’s best to think of you

Holding still in a frame

Features slightly blurred

And always the same

Still as a snapshot

And quiet as a mouse

With no way to get out

And walk through my house

If I can’t fit you in a frame

Then I think it is best

to imagine you’re a ghost -

A most unwelcomed guest

You’re transparent and airy

And drift along singing

A song no one cares to hear

And leaves no heart tingling

But if you manage to come inside

And slam all the doors

If you haunt the hall

and creak the floorboards

Then I’ll find somewhere else

Where I can put you away

Where you can’t get out

And you’ll have to stay

I’ll find every piece I have of you

But you’ll never guess my plan

It’s a trick tried and true

And will work on any man

I’ll gather every memory

Even the ones you forgot

And I’ll put them all in a box

- Preferably one that locks

I’ll take the box and close it tight

And hide it somewhere in the night

Where no ghost can find it in the dark

And reignite the deadly spark

Crazy as it may seem

It’s easier this way

If you’re an object

I can put you away

Better yet I’ll drop you in a lake

Where ghosts can’t search

And the water’s so cold

My heart can’t hurt

I’ll reduce you to nothingness

But you won’t feel a thing

I’ll just be cleaning up the mess

And you’ll be sinking, sinking

Strange as it may seem

It’s better this way

If you aren’t real

Then I can get away

Perhaps this seems cruel to you

My plans for getting rid of you

But let’s remember you’re dangerous too

And I can’t let you win part two

Promise me peace of mind

And I’ll let you keep your voice

Let me rest every night

And I’ll give you a choice:

If you give me the freedom I need

I won’t banish you from my head

Promise you won’t come back for me

And I’ll put you in a frame instead


Winter of Worth

There is something electrifying about the beginning of a new year. I clearly remember December 31st, 2009. Everything seemed to have gone kaput but 2010 promised to be a new beginning and a major turning point for several people I was close to. It felt really good to know that 2009 was over. Only a few months into 2010 there proved to be major problems. I won’t go into the details but I experienced three heart-wrenching losses in February, April and May. Suddenly 2010 wasn’t turning out to be everything it had promised. While I had equally amazing experiences last year, it will probably go down in my personal history as the “fake out” year.

I wanted to end the year well so I tried a new goal – studying for the GMAT in hopes of earning a competitive score for business school. Perhaps I could end the year with a bang. As was fitting of 2010, it was a bang indeed. It sounded kind of like a “ka-boom!” and I believe my performance would be termed a “bomb.” I took the GMAT on December 18th and while I have had a chance to tell some of you personally, I’m telling the rest of you now that I fell well below the score I was aiming for. (The GMAT is computer-based and you receive your verbal and quantitative scores before leaving the testing center.) At about 8 pm I left the testing center with my head down wondering what on earth I had done wrong. I thought I had done really well but I was shocked to see my score was about 100 points lower than I predicted. I couldn’t imagine telling everyone about what had happened. I just kept thinking, “It wasn’t even worth it.”

Luckily I was able to go home for Christmas and get the GMAT off my mind. I came back to P-town in time for a very inspiring New Year’s Eve party. Everyone was rallying. Several people echoed the “See ya 2010!” sentiment and we ended the year in style. By Sunday my mind was swimming with ideas for New Year’s resolutions and winter goals. I was excited for the new opportunities this year hold. At church I was listening with new ears and seeing with new eyes. I had been trying to think of a theme for winter and it finally hit me: this is the Winter of Worth. Not only I am going to make the next three months count, but I’m also going to focus on others’ worth. I also want to understand where my feelings of self worth come from. Usually I prefer to enter hibernation mode during winter but instead this will be the season where I commit to seeing the value in everything around me. I am going to break out of my “me me me” mind frame and build the teams I am a part of. It feels too early to abandon the Christmas spirit and I want to see how long I can hold onto it. If I can spend my time more wisely and allow others to show me all the ways I can improve then perhaps nothing will send 2011 into a tailspin.

Even though I feel like the GMAT was a waste, I’m pretty sure this feeling is temporary. It was good to do a deep math review and I learned a lot of grammar rules that I didn’t even know existed. As for the GMAT score which will haunt me for the next five years (even if I take it again and score higher, the admissions committees will be able to see this initial score) I am learning to not let it define my abilities. Some day I’ll know that this bump in the road was all worth it.

As time goes on I have a better understanding of the deep sorrows and unmatched joys that life holds. I know that no one is immune to disappointment and grief. I have been thinking a lot about how I can better, “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Mosiah 18:9). I think the answer is to learn the meaning of charity. The exact definition has eluded me for years, perhaps because I’ve scarcely allowed it to work in my heart. Alma 34:29 reads, “Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.” That’s a scary thought. Oftentimes I measure my self worth by criteria that have little to nothing to do with charity. The ability to draw confidence and motivation by meeting worldly criteria can quickly shatter when a valued possession, ability or opportunity is taken away. Although it is nice to have nice things and live in nice places and wear nice clothes, those things will never be more important than the ability to love and learn.

Proverbs 3:13-18 reads, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantries, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”

In my quest to see worth in everything around me and value the time I’ve been allotted, perhaps I will become better acquainted with charity. It is very sad to see the warm Christmas season dissipate amidst a frigid January backdrop, and I believe we’d all be much happier if taking down the Christmas lights didn’t coincide with boxing up our charitable compassion. Make the season last, find the worth in every day – even the tough ones – and love those who have been placed in your path. Maybe one day we’ll be able to trade in our Christmas trees for the tree of life. When Nephi witnessed the tree of life in a vision an angel asked, “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?” (1 Nephi 11:21) Nephi replied, “Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things,” (1 Nephi 11:22). But that’s not all. The angel replied, “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul,” (1 Nephi 11:23).

I want this year to be memorable for all the right reasons. Maybe it will be the year I truly learn how to love. Maybe it will be the year I stop watching too much TV. Whatever the reason, I just hope I can be driven by a selfless desire to bring joy to others. I’ll need help with this, so please remind me on the way. I definitely can’t do it alone.