Alex Bierach

Being in time

December 2019

There’s an aspect of moving through time I want to point to.

I was in India for most of the past month to see family, celebrate my engagement, and attend the wedding of some friends.

This trip to India formed in my mind perhaps 6 months ago, and as it approached it took more and more mindshare. Much of my November was spent in anticipation of the trip. As I reflect from the other side of the experience, it is interesting to me how our day-to-day lives are shaped by anchoring events in the future.

What happens when the moment we’ve been anchored to arrives?

I had this experience in the summer of 2018. After a year of dating long-distance, my partner and I spent a month driving from Brooklyn to Berkeley, to finally be living in the same time zone.

About halfway through that trip I started feeling a bit disoriented. So much of the past year had been organized in anticipation of the moment when we would be together, that once it had arrived I wasn’t sure how to think about our relationship and its future. There was a pause between one horizon line and the creation of the next.

There are mini-versions of this everyday. The anticipation of when the waiter will bring out the food we ordered. When we’ll get home from our commute and be able to relax. It seems to me that when the moment arrives, we are quickly preoccupied with the next thing. This is usually quite seamless when dealing with shorter-term anchor events (like getting home from work).

As such, for many of us, life is experienced as a continuous succession of anchor events.

As we age and progress in life, our horizon lines continue to move. When I graduate high school! When I graduate college! When I get my first job! When I meet my wife! When I buy my first home! When my first child is born! When I “make it” professionally! When my parents health begins to fail! When my health begins to fail!

What happens when long-term anchor events come to fruition (e.g. a life-long achievement goal is reached)? What if one of your anchor events never happens?

I think the realization of long-term anchor events are a common source of identity crisis. The passing of the event represents a change in who we are in the world (e.g. I’m single, I’m married, I’m a parent, I’m the boss, I’m retired, etc.). This change requires a recalibration of sorts. Like the kind I experienced during my road trip.

The process of narrative creation, by which we situate ourselves in time and define various anchor events, is a kind of magical power. The more we are able to consciously construct our narratives and their implied horizons, the more control we have over how we spend our time and energy each day. The more we can become the primary creative force in our life.

What major events are on the horizon for you? What major events have you recently passed through? Have you adequately recalibrated based on your new reality?