The first time I was nine, kicking up dust along a dirt road. Suddenly, I was awake, aware, fully present in the moment, feeling my braids flicking against the back of my neck, hearing the bullfrogs croaking in the stream that wound along the side of the road--
Here I am.
A person. Separate and apart and alone, and somehow connected to other people too.
I can't tell you what was happening before that moment or after. I don't know why I was walking on the dirt road. Nothing special about the circumstances, and yet, there it was, a first ever jolt of consciousness at age nine.
Flash forward to me, age eighteen. In this moment, it was night and I was walking across a college campus, moving along on a sidewalk between two stone buildings. A similar jolt, and I was aware of myself, the sand-colored stones on the buildings, the dark sky overhead, the tap of my sneakers against the sidewalk.
No idea where I was coming from or going. I was just suddenly there, as if I'd tumbled into my body, breathing, being, fully inhabiting the present until the present slipped away again.
Over the years I've had other moments like these, but they are rare, sparks of light on what is usually a murky timeline.
Apparently, I am not the kind of person who lives in the Now.
I relive the past, rehashing and analyzing memories. Or, I reach into the future, making lists of things to do and setting goals, crossing items off without fanfare and immediately flipping the calendar and filling up another page. Or, I am distracted. Daydreaming, writing, reading, listening to music, watching TV, scrolling through social media, eating, cleaning, sleeping, drifting, escaping, zoning out. Going and going and going, rushed and vaguely worried, bored, fearful, happy, tired, angry--
But every so often--a pause. A moment of clarity.
I am here.
It doesn't matter where. On a dirt road or between stone buildings at night. Yanking weeds from my garden or smoothing out sheets on a bed. I am awake and fully present. Behind me is a twisting ribbon of the past. In front of me, a blurry strand of the future. But for these precious few seconds
all time stops.