Life is Short

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Today is Nowruz, the beginning of the Persian New Year, marking the first day of Spring. As is storied tradition, I read one of my favorite poems in Persian. I have translated it to English to the best of my ability below. As always, may the language Gods forgive me for my mistakes.

A recurring and profound theme in Persian poetry is living your precious gift of present to the fullest and lamenting the capricious promises of tomorrow. این نیز بگذرد. Carpe diem, if you will. Seize the day! The most famous quote might just be Khayyam's:

"Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life".

Alas, life is short! You have heard that phrase all your life. It actually is. Up until last year, I thought I understood it too. I did not. It wasn't until I started living on the road that I started to truly grasp what living in the present means.

Time is experienced in a continuum. Once I graduated college, I slipped into that comfortable numbness of living where your days are more or less the same, blending in the haze of a familiar repetitious routine. I wasn't unhappy, but ask me what I did on any given day and it probably wasn't any different from the year before unless I was on my "2-week" vacation. Weekdays from 8am to 6pm I was at work. In summers I played beach volleyball every Wednesday. I did Muay Thai/CrossFit every other day. During winters, I would wake up in pitch black to go to work and call it a day in pitch black. I went to the same bars with the same great friends. First Mondays in August I was almost surely at Osheaga. I lived on the same intersection since I graduated college. I worked ten years at a job that while I was excellent at and gave me financial security, never inspired my curiosity or fueled my potential. You get the idea.

Once I started travelling, I started experiencing time in discrete sums. Synchronizing work schedules, visa limits, and life obligations I am constantly calculating how many days I can be in one location. I tend to be a slow traveller, so I stay most places for a month or so. Even then, no matter how you measure it, 30 days in one location isn't really much of anything. Most people I meet now, I meet only once. It is a strange feeling at times. Striking a friendship or taking a liking to someone, knowing that in all probability, all the time you will ever spend with them is right there and then.

This realization has made me appreciate my time far more than I used to when I was in my semi-jaded comfortable existence with an office job and a fancy condo. You don't really feel the time going by in that state. You expect the days to keep coming, and you'll carry on living. It is easy to think that because you spend the vast majority of your time at work, then it must be the most important thing in your life too. I was a hyper competitive and excellent employee in the corporate rate race that rewarded conformity and personal relationships masqueraded as a meritocracy. Plenty of Kool-Aid to go around!

I call my parents almost every day now. I don't take for granted the happiness when I see a great friend once again. I chase the sunsets when the hue of orange melts into the distant sea with the sound of waves crashing into my feet. I let waves of thoughts pick me up and take me far in my daydreams. I consciously eliminate destructive tendencies and build better habits. I do my best to learn from my mistakes, but damned I be if I die with more regrets!

Last year was an enormously difficult year for my country. While I have lived most of my life in North America, I will always be grateful for my difficult but rewarding upbringing in Iran. Persian is a beautiful language full of emotions packed with similes and metaphors. You will only need to see Haft-Seen once to appreciate how deep symbolism runs in Persian.

I will close this with one of the most potent panaceas that words can offer, courtesy of my literature teacher to me as a young teenager:

Time reduces even the greatest wildfires to cold ashes.

You will not last,
Neither will sorrow.
And neither will any of the people in this small town.

I promise, like the nervous bubble at the edge of the stream,
as transient as that moment of happiness lasted,
your sorrow, will pass too.
Such that all that remains is the memory.
The moments are bare.
Never wrap your present moment, in sorrow.

Poet: Keyvan Shahbodaghi