“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” - C.S. Lewis
On the Past
Also known as, 1. the good ol’ days, 2. when everything was simple, 3. the time to dream
As a glamorous “2009” glitters across my face and my smile spreads around a New Year's Eve noisemaker, I’m told not to rush growing up, that I have the tendency to try to race against time. Blame it on the Virgo in me, but I feel the need to overthink and plan the future, all while not having a clue as to what I want.
My dreams were as big as they were distant. In second grade, I wanted to write a book with my mom—and I still do. I also wanted to be a marine biologist, and I wanted to bring peace to every corner of my life, literally. I spent every Monday night drawing a new room in my dream house. My future seemed so far off that I took the liberty to construct it however I chose. In retrospect, it was the life equivalent of coloring outside the lines.
I colored outside of said metaphorical lines frequently because of the running tabs in my mind, the constantly refreshed search of What am I going to do when I grow up? The list had so many options, I couldn’t imagine selecting one, so instead, I embraced this mentality:
The one word that I did use to describe myself, the one steady constant in all the changes of adolescence: happy. In kindergarten, I drew (quite scarily) a self-portrait that I captioned “I am happy.” Then in 2009, I executed a slightly better self-portrait with the caption “I am a happy person, and I am looking forward to a happy year.” Happy, happy, happy, happy. I see it everywhere in my old journals and scrapbooks. It makes me smile every time.
On the Present
On January 1, 2020, one of my first thoughts was that I turn 20 years old this year, and furthermore, that all of my personal milestone birthdays from here on out will coincide with larger temporal milestones—I’ll be 25 in 2025, 30 in 2030, and 50 in 2050 (the blessing and the curse of being born in 2000).
Cue an existential meltdown as I ponder my place in the world, assessing every little thing I contribute to and take from it. I balance my life on a point system similar to that in “The Good Place,” parsing through my 7,103 days of existence to figure out who I really am now and who I really want to be in the future. I see this thread in the questions at the heart of that day’s entry: “Who will I be in 2030? 2050? What am I doing then? Am I happy?”
Nearly all of my friends mock me for my active use of Pinterest. The jokes always feature a similar punchline: You’re such a mom. Hold old are you, 45? Nonetheless, I’m the proud architect of 10 different boards, ranging from “nice to look at,” to “a little place called home,” to, quite literally, “the life I’m building.” I spend five minutes in the morning scrolling through the app, adding posts to my boards and revisiting inspiration for the life I want to lead. A tool of manifestation, Pinterest helps me envision a future that feels far off from my present; even if that manifestation is a simple hairstyle, an open floor plan apartment, or an inspirational quote.
As silly as it seems, this simple act calms and focuses me as I start my day. You may be wondering why this even matters. Well, the words “decade” and “future” are highlighted in every one of my journal entries from mid-December through the new year. It’s a feature of my existence that my friends would refer to as my “John Green trait”—a subtle quirk that plays with the trope of being unique.
Future, future, future. That word seems to follow me everywhere. I obsess about it, though rarely audibly. I write things like, “I can’t tell if the future is far-off or just next to my fingertips” and “To my future, I ask that you be good to me,” naturally.
It might come as no surprise that my journal nowadays contains a lot more panicking about impending life choices and a lot less doodling in the margins than it used to (though there still is some). I’m a college student who’s subject to both societal and self-imposed pressure, and the pages are a junk drawer for all the thoughts that I can’t neatly compartmentalize, most of which relate to that word: future.
On the Future
I recently gave myself the task of making a two-page spread in my journal titled “Gratitude & Growth.” Filled with moments and things that I’m grateful for from the past years of my life and the things that I want to hold close in the ones to come, these pages are the product of not thinking too strenuously or for too long about what I want to write on the page.
Sure, this exercise led to bullet points about sitting on rooftops and listening to my favorite albums, but at the center of both categories were moments of unadulterated happiness. It’s in reading these lists out loud (something I rarely do with my journal) that the common thread becomes glaringly apparent. The one truth that has stood the test of time is happiness. Despite any change in my environment—and trust me there were many—the happy moments held my hand and guided me through it.
I’ll perpetually feel like I’m on the precipice of my next great big “something”: getting my degree, securing a job, finding a pair of jeans that fit just right, jumping waves in the ocean like a child again, meeting a love interest, potentially losing them too, something, something, something. In essence, it’s all up in the air; as it always has been, and will continue to be.
Rather, my ultimate goal is this (and you, reader, can hold me to it): My five-year-old self believed I was a happy person, and my 19-year-old self believes I am a happy person, and I will believe that. I, Jade Justice, at whatever age, will be a happy person.
Enjoy leafing through our first issue!