When I was young, I never really understood the concept of paragraphs. My teacher told me you start a new one when the scene changes, or when something new happens. So I began to write single line paragraphs because no two moments are the same; each one different to the ones before it. She told my parents I didn’t understand.
The sun had begun to set, painting the sky with a multitude of vivid emotions. The clouds did not bring rain, but were clothed in colour, serenading the sun as it bid farewell. He stood at the base of the signpost and cast his eyes towards the sunset. What was it about them that left people mesmerised? To deny their beauty would be unjust, but it would be even more so to insinuate that was the sole cause. There was something else. Maybe the reason they invoked such wonder was not just because they are beautiful but also because they are fleeting. Like childhood. Like innocence. Like life. It made him think about his own life. The goodbyes. The failures. The losses. The falls. We sometimes talk and live as if we are infinite and of wanting to kill time. But ultimately, in the end time kills us all. We seek permanence in a temporary world. Life could be called many things; difficult, treacherous and painful. But to him it had been a teacher.
It had been a long and arduous journey and it wasn’t even over yet. Who knew when it would finish. Before he set off, the old lady had told him to look out for the signposts. “You’ll see them regularly until your time comes,” she said.
“What do you mean until my time comes?” He had asked.
“You will know when it happens.”
There wasn’t really a map for him to follow, mainly because everyone chose to make the journey differently, in their own way and to their own unknown destinations. Teacher life was one of those who didn’t really have a lesson plan. She set the exams and expected you to learn from your experience. She gave him the opportunity to look back and see what he did right and do it better, but if he did wrong to try to rectify it. The more experience he gained, the more he realised the value of things, hence changing his desires and wishes.
The burning sky began to fade and the moon took her rightful place. He had come to many crossroads, not too dissimilar to this one. Each with their own signposts, directing those travellers seeking information from them in different ways. His feet hurt and sometimes he just wanted to stop. Sometimes, it all felt too much. But he would recall one of the most valuable lessons taught to him. He was not bitter for the hardships and trials that had littered his path. Instead he was grateful for the blessings. He chose not to carry the burden of his sorrows, but the memories of his happiness. The hellos, from all the people he had met along the way, who he had interacted with and who had given him their company. The small personal goals, and the bigger targets he had reached. His intimate collection of dear items, gifts and trophies. Each sunset brings with it the promise of a new dawn. But before the dawn one must endure the darkness. He took a deep breath and looked at his options on the signposts. Which way would he take his life now?
Whenever we look back, we only tend to remember moments. Each one, whether good or bad, happy or sad is unique and irreproducible. Having said that, no moment is isolated in a fixed time. It is like a fibre that makes up rope, interconnected and wound tightly against many others. I remember many years later sitting at pizza hut one lunch time with friends in celebration of my birthday, but being so sad at the death of a loved one just over a month before, that I could barely place my order.
An ending is also a moment. The word ending usually tends to have negative connotations associated with it. However, I think it should be remembered that without endings, there would be no beginnings. Also, it is usually a nice time to reflect on what came before and plan for that which is yet to come. At this crossroads, tonight, I shall not pray for boxes wrapped in strings for you. Instead I give you this prayer. May you have the courage to do the things you did not do before; out of fear and or failure. Never be afraid to try, because until you do, how will you ever know what you can and can’t do? And sometimes you’ll try and succeed, but most often than not, you will fall and or you will be hurt, but don’t ever let that stop you from trying. Only through trying will you grow; emotionally, physically, mentally and amazingly.
Recalling it now, I think I finally understood what my teacher was trying to tell me about paragraphs.
Image of a sign in the sunset taken from personal photography.