“I miss dreaming forwards,” Anna said.
“I dream backwards now. You won’t believe how backwards you’ll dream someday.”
― Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
Maybe some people aren’t like this, but I spend a lot of time in the past, some time in the future, and not nearly enough time in the present.
Life these days is shaping up to make me even more like this. Dreaming of classes full of students, off campus trips downtown, and weekends away from Cville. Dreaming backwards.
Some days, I dream of high school. Shocking, I know. I was SO HAPPY when high school was over. It meant a fresh new start somewhere different. It meant that those hard, laborious years were over. But now, in college, I dream backwards.
I dream back to seeing my school Mom and giving her a hug. I dream back to sitting with my friends in class and laughing with them. I dream back to those hours when classes were over and we were laughing with our professors. I dream backwards.
There’s something about getting older. When you have more of your life to compare. When you’re not experiencing everything anew. That’s when it creeps in. On your bad days, your good old days come back to bite you like a mosquito. You can’t quite stop scratching, looking back and wondering how the heck you took it all for granted.
It’s funny now. They tell me that the days I’m living now – college – that’ll be what I dream backwards about years from now. But we’re in quarantine, and though I have missed my college town and friends and community and all the wonderful activities, I can’t help but feeling that high school was a little bit simpler.
There wasn’t the whole “you need to plan for the rest of your life and get a perfect job straight out of school” thing. Yes, we studied and we worked. But we also laughed.
I guess, now, it’s hard to imagine laughing in the midst of a pandemic that has cut my university time and has irrevocably shaped its trajectory. In remembering the good old days, we’re drawn backwards to a time when we have all the things we want now. It’s wild to think that someday all the things you have now are the things you want later.
This quote – it’s about a story of a woman, Anna, who feels unloved by her husband. She has retired from ballet and starts to volunteer to help a blind man around his apartment. In the course of the story *SPOILER ALERT* her husband dies and she is left alone with an empty chair on the other side of the kitchen table. Anna visits the blind man and this is what she tells him – you won’t believe how you’ll dream backwards someday.
She remembers all the amazing ways her husband did make me feel loved in the same way I am remembering all the ways high school was so easy compared to the college life I’m living now.
Side note: there are many elements to this story and you should definitely check it out if you can. Such lyrical storytelling! *chef’s kiss*
In the quote, the man is startled when Anna speaks and I think that’s how it is when it first hits us. When we find ourselves dreaming of what used to be, we’re shocked. As much as we think we’ll never linger in the past, there are times when it comes unbidden, the memory full of longing. Our yearning, it’s not an easy weight to carry. Especially when we’re all inside when we should be out with one another again. The yearning isn’t easy alone.
It’s good to acknowledge it – the dreaming backwards. It’s funny for me to be young and nostalgic, but it’s all a part of life. Some seasons are better than others. It’s okay to want for something more.
Anna is older than the blind man and the way she talks, it’s like it’s inevitable. We’ll all be faced with the dreams of the past while the present is harsh and the future bleak. It makes you wonder what you’d tell your younger self and what you’d want your future self to know.
I’d tell my younger self to not rush so much. The future holds so much beauty. But so does the present. In this season, there is something that is not in another. Cherish it. I’d tell my future self that there are moments when life is a bit darker than usual, and we can only choose to accept them as they are. Optimism is great when you’re ready but so darn harmful when you aren’t. Feel deeply and as needed.
Marina Keegan was a college student too. Her story and its stunning clarity on nostalgia and how we want what we used to have is incredible. It’s funny. We who are young are aware of the longing of what used to be. There’s something sacred about the way someone else’s reflection of the world mirrors your own. That there are vastly different life experiences, and yet we all feel the same.
We feel pain. We feel joy. We feel love. We feel lonely. We feel longing and yearning. And it’s all a part of human existence.
P.S. This quote is from a collection of fiction and nonfiction stories and essays, The Opposite of Loneliness. Check out the book! I highly recommend it. The lyrical prose is stunning but the passion is even more so.
Comment down below your story of longing and yearning. What are you hoping for during this time?