If Not Now, When?
Today I feel dusty & dry, like an abandoned chalkboard. I feel like the hour hand in a clock tower, stern, slow, but forward-moving.
Today’s post is inspired by something my mother used to say to me all the time when I was growing up: “if you do that now, what will you do when you’re [insert age here]?”
Usually it had to do with clothing, specifically bathing suits. I wanted a certain bikini when I was 14, and I distinctly remember her taking one look at it and saying “if you wear that when you’re 14, what will you wear when you’re 16?” I think she thought I’d go full Brazilian cut by 16 and then just completely nude at 18.
I understand the desire to keep her daughter age-appropriate and modest, but the ideology of waiting until I’m older has been a rather unwelcome one in other areas of my life.
The present is not permanent
You see, I’ve been notorious about wallowing in the present circumstance as the permanent circumstance, and not taking action to change it. My gloomiest self will believe that nothing positive I do will change the future, so why even try? Thinking about how my older self will fix my younger self makes me feel overwhelmed and helpless, especially since I don’t know what future me will even be capable of.
If I was in a healthy routine today, what would tomorrow look like? I’m so hooked on the idea of some sort of trajectory that I forget that we can be in a healthy routine today, tomorrow, and literally every single day after that if we wanted to. We can even maintain if we desperately desire to do so. But honestly, growth will usually find a way to sneak in.
It’s funny, because you’d think that I’d be more willing to embrace new, healthy routines if I believed my present circumstances would be the peak of my life. I’m working on that—because really, what do we have other than the present moment and a few emotional suitcases full of the past?
The terror and the beauty of the fact that the present is not permanent means that this moment, right now, no matter how amazing or how awful, will pass. And you will tuck it away into one of those suitcases and maybe forget about it, maybe not. But it will fade.
When you’re future self is too much work
Another reason I was hesitant to start things like a regular writing or exercise routine was that I never felt “ready”. I always felt that if I started something, I’d have to suddenly be its sparkly-eyed devotee. I never felt like I had the energy to be the future self I wrote about in my journals.
But here’s another truth for you: you can fail. You can stop. You can start again. You can decide to never do it again. You can, even, fall in love with it and do it every day for 87 days and then stop for 87 days and then remember it when you wake from a dream one night and then start it back up again.
This has been difficult for me, because I’m constantly wanting to try new things. I tend to invest money in things before I realize it’s no longer something I’m interested in. Violin, calligraphy, weaving. It costs me a pretty penny each year to run this blog, and many times I’ve been frustrated to the point of shutting it all down forever. But it’s okay. It’s okay. It. Is. Okay.
Your future self will be your future self no matter what. She’s there, waiting for you to cut yourself a break and just play around, learning, challenging yourself, and loving yourself until the day you finally arrive to meet her. Then you’ll both journey on to meet your future future self. It’ll be great.
What I’m trying to say is this: don’t let your ideas about your future self stop you from doing something today.
And now for a quick chat about modesty.
Fuck modesty. I mean not really, but maybe a little. If your modesty keeps you grounded and provides comfort, then modest away, my love. But if modesty is holding you back from doing something that you truly want to do, like buying a Brazilian bikini or saying a bad word or starting a blog and just talking about yourself or taking a selfie because you look nice today, then that modesty is a false flag for shame. And a fear of what others think. And you don’t need that in your life.
If you’re worried about doing something or saying something because you’re not old enough or not pretty enough or not experienced enough, then your modesty is partying down in your headspace with all its friends: self-loathing, shame, doubt, and that asshole fear. Call the cops and report a noise violation, they are not welcome here and for fuck’s sake make them clean up their red solo cups on their way out.
Get to the chopper!
Do it now! I was reading through some random notes I had made to myself almost exactly a year ago, and I was so filled with fear and doubt that I just constantly said the same thing: I wish I could write. I wish I had the time, the energy, the knowledge, the experience, the comedic chops.
Don’t get me wrong, all those fears are still swarming in my head every day, but with one simple difference: I’m actually writing. You can be terrified of doing the thing and not do it, or you can be terrified of doing the thing and actually do it. You’ll be terrified either way.
But once I completed my first thirty day challenge at the yoga studio, I realized (in sheer terror at all the doors that opened up) that I could actually handle a daily routine. I realized that I could scale it to include writing as well, and my disaster-loving ego went into a tailspin. But if I write now, what will I have left to complain about?
If there’s something you want to do, commit to it. Tell your partner or your loved ones or your Instagram followers, and then do it because you have to (and trust me, you will not always want to do it, and that’s where it gets difficult). But do it anyway, and you’ll thank yourself for showing up.
And really, you do have to. Because if you don’t, and if you put it off until tomorrow, until next week, next month, next year, it may never happen. And by that I morbidly mean that something could happen at any moment and you’ll be out of time to do those things you always complained in your journal about not doing.
The discomfort of doing it pales in comparison to the regret you’ll carry in your suitcases if you don’t do it while you have the chance.
And if you’re too busy to do more than a few minutes today, don’t fret. We always overestimate what we can accomplish in a day, but underestimate what transformations we can undergo in a year.
Last year’s version of me was sad that she didn’t have time for a daily practice of anything. Today’s (still highly imperfect) version of Emily practices yoga for an hour each day and writes for an hour each day. Today’s version of Emily has been doing yoga every day, even just 15 minutes worth, for 200 days. She has written almost thirty hours this month. Today’s Emily can feel a six pack forming on her abdomen.
If you told last year’s Emily this, she’d be overwhelmed and maybe a little paralyzed, but all of this change hasn’t happened overnight. It’s taken 200 nights. And it’ll take hundreds and hundreds more before I can love myself and live fully the way I want to.
Not convinced? Here are some actual quotes from 2016 Emily who didn’t believe she could do anything:
“I keep self-sabotaging when it comes to the difficult creative work. Once we’re out of financial crisis mode, I need to reevaluate my relationship with work.” Spoiler alert: we never got out of financial crisis mode. There’s never a perfect time to start.
“I want to feel creative again. I want to feel productive and positive, but it’s very difficult now. It’s tough to not feel angry and bitter towards people who have regular opportunity to do something meaningful to them.” Oh, sweetheart. Oh, baby. Give yourself the biggest hug and the warmest cup of tea, get a good night’s sleep and then listen to me: you can do it. You can make your own opportunity. And you will. A year from now, you’ll be future Emily and you’ll be doing better in ways that will surprise you.
“I have no regularity or ritual in my life and I am living reactively to everyone around me. It makes me feel depersonalized and so tired. I need a grounding ritual.” YOU CAN DO IT GIRL AND YOU WILL I PROMISE.
“I don’t want to go to yoga because I don’t want to do any emotional labor. I want my life to be beautiful and bright and I just can’t even take steps towards that.” I still have days like this. But it turns out, the days that I wanted to do yoga the least were the days that were the most powerful. Stick with it, get uncomfortable, get stern with yourself and do the thing. Treat yourself like you would treat a child who doesn’t want to eat her vegetables, and make yourself do it for your own well-being.
Man, that’s enough of the sharing from my old journals. It’s really helpful to see how far I’ve come, but I’m left feeling so much pity for the poor creature who wrote those words. She’s getting better, every day.
I’ll leave you with this: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.
If you don’t do what you feel compelled to do today, what will you say to yourself next year? Will you regret the wasted time? I know I do, but I'm working to be kind to myself about it.
Maybe you’ve wasted time, but you haven’t wasted too much time. You still have today. Go get em, babe.