In 2019, Beck is too tall. I ask him to stop growing already. My thirteen-year-old tells me to relax, that time is a construct, and we laugh the same laugh whenever we call anything a construct. Our low chuckles will fade out the car window or hang in the negative space between television sets and living room furniture. In this instance, we are sitting across from one another at a Vietnamese restaurant. Our laughter dissolves into the noise of a blender grinding.
He looks down at his phone, eyebrows narrow and too serious. In the span of a moment, he looks like a grown human. I take a mental snapshot, something I do when an image or feeling is so striking that I cognitively file it away – something to return to later. Mental snapshots are holding time in cupped hands, memories like water trying to seep past the cracks between your fingers.
But my mind often feels tired between the outer world and my own interiority, struggling to feel peace in environments not designed to for people who aren’t neurotypical. My late diagnosis of ADHD-Inattentive type has helped me understand the root of a life saturated with anxiety, a life of fast heart rates, perpetually flushed cheeks, and the need for five drink to create the illusion of comfort in whatever given social dynamic.
The diagnosis also came with an under-active prefrontal cortex (PFC), creating dogshit executive functioning. The PFC regulates working memory, which explains why mental snapshots are dripping through my fingers, draining hand-cupped time.
There’s another thing. I’ve had an increase in striking moments turned mental photographs in the last couple of years. The truth is, the growth is causing the pool of snapshots to spill past my memory’s grip, and sometimes the moments blend together.
The bad bleeds together, too. I’ve been avoiding talking about me as I was ten years ago because my present self has made a lot of effort to not look back. When I started researching for Past Ten, there was a small shyness in the nostalgia – as if my Facebook history was somehow a physical manifestation of my 2009 self: twenty-one years old and unable to see opportunity beyond working as a credit card sales advisor for a bank too big to value its entry-level employees. September 4 that year fell on a Friday, which means I worked a ten-hour day/spent ten hours distracting myself from answering customer service calls.
More often than not, I would avoid going home after work, but I don’t think that’s the case ten years ago. There are two Facebook posts proving September 4th, 2009 to be an extra ontologically heavy day.
Status one reads:
is pretty much done.
I want to clarify with my 2009 self to understand what she meant by “Be,” but I’m the only one in 2009 or 2019 who can answer that. I suppose I’ll take the post’s advice and just let it be. Instead, I spend a moment with a previous self, scrolling past September 2019 to see what kind of ruckus I was up to. It turns out she wasn’t too all that bad – just needed some grounding, some time with herself even though she tries her best to avoid being alone.
It’s really a bit funny – the fear of returning, of being shy around one’s self. When I first thought about who I was in 2009, I immediately polarized my two selves, brushing aside who I was ten years ago because I wasn’t proud of who she was, where wasn’t going. I think all that really means is that I didn’t possess enough patience and self-love, to whatever version of self I’m looking at/am/etc.
The biggest difference is I now know my brain a little more intimately, helping me understand the reason why I navigate the world the way I do. I have tools to work towards a semblance of future, whereas my twenty-one-year old self couldn’t imagine where she would be in a few seconds, or eight days. A million years.
2009 Facebook posts reveal what we have in common: a love for overcast days and fresh rain on asphalt, the way Beck makes us so happy. Both versions of self attempt to hold memories in cupped hands – some hope to return to whenever the world feels too difficult to navigate.
If time is a construct, my younger self is out there now.
In ten years, a friend will explain non-linear time to her – research for an essay looking at where she was a decade ago. The friend will talk about the absence of causality in non-linear time, so it allows for certain impossibilities. “Like if you could unbreak an egg,” he will say.
And for an instant, she’ll wonder if she can become unbroken like an egg. Her mind will swirl in the thought for only a small moment – a few seconds, a million years – just long enough to realize the possibility is already there.
Bailey Gaylin Moore is currently an MFA candidate studying creative nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She studied philosophy during her undergrad and English for her MA at Missouri State University, where she also taught classes in fiction and composition rhetoric. She has served as an assistant editor for Moon City Review as well as a reader for Boulevard Magazine. Bailey's previous publications can be found in Willow Springs and Hayden's Ferry Review.
She encourages readers to get involved with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. Visit www.rainn.org.