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the illusion of permanence
or the feeling that your feelings will last forever
To see the world in a grain of sand - William Blake
Lying in bed and hoping that the breeze from the fan in the window cools you down just enough to let you fall asleep in the late-summer, New England humidity. On most nights, the whir of the fan lulls you just into the territory of sleep, but not tonight. For some reason, just like your mom, you’ve never been able to sleep before the first day of school. Like the coming fall months, the start of the school year feels like a fresh start.
You wake up to the alarm even though you feel like you’ve been lying awake for hours. You brush your teeth using the 2-minute timer your parents put on the mirror when you were younger. The timer seems to tick especially fast on a day like today.
The clink of Frosted Mini Wheats in the bowl and the noise of ESPN on the TV. You’re reading the cereal box again. Somehow you always found an odd comfort in that.
Many years pass. The clink of cereal and the din of the TV are now distant memories, replaced by waking up so late that there is no time to eat anything. You miss the days when the toothbrushing timer felt fast because things now feel faster still.
It’s fall again, but not back to school. Not anymore. You’re working your first job out of college in Seattle. That restless night before the start of school has been replaced by many nights where you jolt awake for seemingly no reason. Here the seasons change without fanfare. Fall does not announce its arrival with a blaze of color but rather fades slowly into the winter gray.
For the first time, you’re not sitting in the classroom of the next grade, but watching as your LinkedIn ticks up from “11 mos” to 1 yr”. A strange new rhythm underpins the days, and you start to wonder, “Is this it?”
The days, once delineated by the school bells and changing seasons, now blend into one another, slipping by like grains of sand through an hourglass. Time seems to stretch continuously from work to having a family to retirement in an endless marathon from one anticipated milestone to the next.
Years later, on a quiet night, you realize that life isn’t about counting moments as they pass or the milestones that once seemed so crucial. By design or by chance, the grains of sand have accumulated into a bizarre sand castle. In its twisting corridors, you find the echoes of laughter, the faint imprint of dreams, and the darkness of doubts and pain.
You come to understand that each grain—whether set with intention or dropped by chance—has built something remarkable. The structure stands not as a monument to lost time but as a testament to lived life. With this realization, you finally see that the anxiety of ungrasped time fades into some recess of the sand castle, just as those childhood memories of the clink of cereal and the gentle hum of a window fan on a humid night.
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