In the Light of Now by Wan Adam

Penned down in the aughts of the pandemic, contributor Wan Adam unclogs a stream of conciousness in the wake of loss, isolation and finding a means to make sense of things in the absence of self.

The solitude the world shoved us into last year felt painful at first, but then it started to feel necessary. I needed extended time to be alone, to grow in private, to know myself in new ways.

To metamorphose. Now, though, I find myself energised by connection again. I feel like I’ve had a long rest. The sun makes me feel like I can do anything. It feels like maybe the future I’ve been waiting so anxiously for is here, or nearly here, or maybe just less urgent. Maybe even like I should find a way to prolong these moments leading up to it and savour the taste of transition. 

This is all to say that I am finding ways to be present, which is a feat for me in more ways than one. Because although I am motivated by the future, I am also constantly tangled up in the past: comforted by the certainty of it, frustrated by my inability to return to it, obsessed with the things I can’t change about it. This makes living in the now difficult, and it also typically makes transitions terrifying. While the future is mesmerising from afar, it can start to feel daunting once it gets too close, because I know that in order to step into the glimmering version of myself I imagine waiting there, I have to first find a way to let go of who I’ve been in the past. 

It hadn’t occurred to me until recently that despite this — or maybe even because of it — transitions can actually be a place of peace. When I’m not rushing towards my next evolution or longing to step into a freeze-frame of the past, I can find a way to hold both of them, to stand on the fine line between the two. I can worry less about who I’ve been or who I will be and I can even let go of my need to understand and pin down who I am right now. I can just be, and I can watch in awe at the way all of the colours of all of my selves and all of my lives blur into the gradient of the present. 

I feel new beginnings forming, and I know this means that a sort of goodbye is coming, too— an end to this stage of my life and to this stage of the world, all the good and the bad of it. I feel it all getting closer every day. It is exciting and scary and energising and exhausting and I’m trying hard to sit still in the limbo of it all.

I’m trying to think of a metaphor that doesn’t describe life as a train ride, but admittedly my lexicon is littered with cliches and I especially like that one. Something along the lines of, “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” or “life is a journey, enjoy the ride” (and yes, I imagine these in cursive writing, factory-plastered on a mug at Parkson). Like many things that are considered trite and banal, there is so much truth in these words, and it certainly isn’t as simple as it may sound. I’ve spent so many years of my life rushing towards the next stop, constantly anxious and worried about making it there on time. My internal monologue, a string of anticipations murmuring “am I headed in the right direction? Will everyone get there before me? Did I pack the right walking shoes?” And of course, the problem is you don’t take notice of what’s happening in the moment.

I think maybe I’ve always treated concepts like ‘live in the moment’ as a sort of vague, blanket statement that’s tossed around when you need to feel better, and not as an actual practice that can be implemented into your daily life. How could I when I need to worry about the looming future? When I need to make sure I don’t trip and make the same mistakes again? I’ve come to realise that being present in the moment isn’t about abandoning the past or relinquishing control of the future, it’s about not letting those things define you. In my mind’s eye, I picture a moth–who I’ve always thought was guided by moonlight, fluttering in its silver white path, but in actuality, navigates by smell. What happens is that they use their antennae to compare scents at two points in space and then steer in the direction of the greater concentration. They wander in those jolting, seemingly erratic flight patterns because they are constantly reorienting themselves; making decisions moment to moment, always recalibrating, perpetually shifting. 

I want to move through this life like a moth, eagerly beating its delicate wings and stumbling towards the light—making the next right choice, over and over again. I think there is something so forgiving and human about breaking it down to the next step, the next breath. There’s room for error and fluctuation, space to say it’s okay, I can keep going. And isn’t it incredible that our new beginnings are so boundless? That it can be every year, every day, every hour, every second?

Wan Adam finds beauty in the quiet spaces between change and constancy. Drawing from a deep well of introspection borne from solitude, his writings navigate the intricate dance of being present amidst the pull of past and future

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