You know how everyone's always saying seize the moment? I don't know, I'm kind of thinking it's the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us." ~Boyhood
It's a tough business growing up. Life starts out simple and seemingly preordained. But at a certain point you have to forge your own path–the path of who you are, what you do, and the people with which you associate.
Sometimes I'm wistful for my boyhood, which at least on the surface felt so uncomplicated. A time when your friends were everything and you didn't have to compete with bills, careers, or lovers for attention. When the stress and drama of adulthood rears it's ugly head, I tend to look back at a time of bicycles and popsicles and wish I could hop in a Delorean and go back to 1985. I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in this.
Then there's Richard Linklater's brilliant movie Boyhood. Beyond it's unique filming style–it was shot over the course of 12 years as the actors aged in real life–it's also one of the best cinematic explorations of nostalgia and mindfulness I've seen in quite some time.
Boyhood reminded me of my own wistful tendencies... and it reminded me why those tendencies are completely foolish.
To be clear, my own boyhood didn't follow the exact same path as the boy we follow in the movie. But then again, no path is ever the same. Despite our differences and our similarities, the questions I had then, the questions I have now, and the questions about life the movie explores all are on a very similar wavelength.
I guess that's what draws us towards any movie really–it's something we enjoy, something that makes us think, something that sticks with us, or at least something we find entertaining.
Both boyhood and adulthood are like a labyrinth. Looking back at our path can provide us with lessons for the future, but pining after the past doesn't help us move forward. The only way to decode the puzzle of life is to live in the moment and let those moments live through you.
In both boyhood and adulthood life is complicated. Very few of us had a perfect life growing up. In the movie, our main character grows up as a child of divorce, with alcoholic step-fathers, school yard bullies, and a slew of questions about life's path. As adults these days we live surrounded by break ups, alcoholic loved ones, work and online bullies, and a continuing onslaught of life questions.
In both boyhood and adulthood friendships take a lot of work. Very few of us are still friends, or at least close friends, with those childhood besties. In the movie, our main character has friends who are central to his life, but when he has to move or simply loses touch, he is forced to let them go. As adults, friendships are more stable because they're made out of choice and experience, but they are still fraught with complex emotions, and once in a while we are still forced to let them go.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
As we get older our minds grow. We learn through experience and slowly figure out some of the answers to life's questions. But the more you grow and the more questions you answer, the more questions you create. We grow, because of and despite of our age.
Boyhood raises questions about each of our individual paths in life, about the wistful emotions our experience stirs, and those questions are just are relevant to me today as they were to me when I was a boy.
But if you really stop and think about it, life now is no more complicated than life then. Melancholy, looking backwards, regretting decisions, or longing for the relative simplicity of boyhood, those feelings aren't going to get you anywhere in life.
The big question posed in Boyhood, at least to me, is how do we use our experiences in life to grow up? How does that growth move us along our path? What is that path and where will it lead?
That answer to those questions are not found on some preordained paved road to success and happiness. What you do as a kid, what you enjoy in high school, and what you study in college are just small parts of the large puzzle. Every moment is stepping stone taking us to new uncharted territories in life. They may be completely unrelated to one another, but they are still ours, and they've all led us to now.
It's up to us if we live in the present moment or to constantly look back at what is finished or forward at what is unknown. It's up to us if we keep trying to seize each moment as the be all/end all, or if we just let the moment seize us and see where it leads.
Remember the good times of the past–in fact, never forget them–but then take the lessons you've learned and look forward. Appreciate your present life, complications and all.
When you're searching for it, you may never quite figure out exactly what you want to be and where you want to go. But you can always figure out the right now, and that's the only thing in life that actually matters.