Time moves differently depending on what you want it to do. One week, a client tells me they feel the expanse of the next few months like a yawning cavern ready to swallow them up in sandy beige like the Cave of Wonders in the cartoon Aladdin. A month later, plans made and settled, a new challenge has presented itself, a move scheduled and those same few months seem like water slipping between their fingers and there’s a need to trap those moments under glass.
Memory is fickle too. Try to recall your entire life and you’ll come up with blurry pictures from chapters that are out of order. Sometimes they’re made more real by seeing actual pictures – I know I once held a giant snake with my brother because I saw myself with a bowl cut and the pink jelly sandals I can still remember the plasitcy smell of, but I have no memory of that snake or the camp we were apparently at together. People are always correcting my memory so I’ve become used to the idea that I’m in general an unreliable narrator. I love to read other people’s memoirs, maybe because I’m amazed at how much they can recall, in linear fashion. Never mind the fact that they could be making it all up and no one would be the wiser. Sometimes when I’m driving I think of a narration for some event that happened and the voices of all my friends and family correcting my memory crowd it out. I’ll have to write it under a fake name, if I ever do.
A friend saw me at a happy hour last summer and said it was funny to see me in a setting like that. I was dumbfounded. What other setting do I exist in? Hadn’t I fought for years to be taken seriously? She said I was always so serious and it was fun to see me let loose. I did a quick check of all the settings she’d seen me in – at the gym at 6 AM before work, rushing to make it to the shower on time, setting agendas for the board we’re both on, responding to emails within the hour, and organizing events with the five other powerful women we associate with together. I laughed at the picture she must have of me, a complete fabrication that would have been a shock to the version of myself that existed 10 years ago.
I don’t know if it makes me a better therapist or a worse one, the fact that I was once incapable of getting anywhere on time or keeping my apartment clean who somehow turned into a person that got bored after finishing one master’s degree and decided to start another one just to fill time. Maybe it makes me like those people who say that people need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and I have a blind spot for those who don’t have bootstraps to begin with. Maybe it gives me knowledge of both sides of the world – those people who sort of float through life being invited to parties, move to another country, and wear Halloween costumes to work, and those who make spreadsheets of books they’ve read, plan out outfits for the week, and have to restrain themselves from reminding others too often to get something done. Maybe it’s cause I’m a Gemini. I wonder if any prospective clients will read that and decide against working with me.
It’s scary and fun to think about what kind of person you may become in the next ten years, given what you were ten years ago. I always imagine successful women in their 40s as wearing loose white pantsuits, maybe because I was a kid in the 90s and that’s what they all wore in the First Wives Club (team Brenda) and Sex and the City (team Miranda). On TV, people always wear the same fashions of the era where the show was created, in a metallic fabric with some extra foam extensions that come out of the shoulders, elbows, knees, and waist. Maybe clothes will be a hologram.
I have a habit of throwing things away. I love a clean house and an organized office space. Sometimes it’s to my detriment, and I think of the poems and weird drawings I’d made for my friends in middle school and wish I had them. The internet is a double-edged sword because not only is everything permanent for others to find, but also it’s so easy to delete the things you create. Thinking about my writing reminds me of a Maya Angelou quote, “Will I be less dead because I wrote this poem or you more because you read it long years hence.”