It has been years since I saw the movie Before Sunrise, but I often find myself thinking about a snippet of conversation from the movie. I finally went back to look up the exact words.
The movie is about two twenty-somethings (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and the one night they spend hanging out together.
Céline: “I always have this strange feeling that I am this very old woman laying down about to die. You know, that my life is just her memories, or something.”
Jesse: “That’s so wild. I mean, I always think that I’m still this thirteen-year-old boy, you know, who just doesn’t really know how to be an adult, pretending to live my life, taking notes for when I’ll really have to do it. Kind of like I’m in a dress rehearsal for a junior high play.”
I’ve never forgotten this scene, because I know exactly what both of them are talking about.
On the one hand, I often have a strange feeling of dress rehearsal, of make-believe—that I, and the people around me, are playing elaborate games of pretend. I find myself in an airport, and as I pull my wheelie bag behind me, I think, “Hey, I must look just like a person going to a conference.” Because I am.
In a way, this feeling is comforting, because it makes life less serious. It gives everything a faint air of the ridiculous. But it also takes away from my appreciation of this moment—this time.
I also sometimes have the feeling that I’m far in the future, looking back on the present moment with deep nostalgia. A few weeks ago, when my younger daughter shouted with excitement when she saw that Santa Claus had eaten the gingerbread cookies we left for him, it seemed almost like something that had happened long, long ago, even though it was happening right in front of me.
But I fight these attitudes. I am living my real life, this is it. That’s the Eighth Splendid Truth: Now is now.
Does this ring true for you? Do you ever have these feelings?
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. Gretchen is also on Facebook and Twitter.