Reflections on Time and First Deaths

By Madeleine Adams

Drawn by Madeleine Adams

I think the transition from highschool to university was a more drastic change than I’d expected, being the oldest of four siblings and thus being thrusted into independence and responsibility as I entered my teen years. Unpredictably, the way the harsh line between childhood and adulthood was underlined by my moving to school took its toll on my naive, deeply existential, unfortunately ill mind.

Something feels to have changed in the way I think about and experience time. I spent my teenage years wishfully thinking of what is to come after; my past was spent in the dreamy future of my mind, and I seem to have only just woken up. I’d counted down the years to my start but now, I don’t feel ready to start, nor do I know what any starts or ends entail. And this isn’t to say I did this thinking to escape anything—I enjoyed my high school experience and its easy close friendships and perfect grades, but still, I thought the future would bring with it a self reinvented, rebirthed by and through myself. I thought I was waiting to be myself, though—like many—I didn’t and still don’t really know who this self was. And now that I’m here as what I can only think of as my same self, I realise the wishfulness of my thinking. I sheltered myself from reality, from the inevitability of dragging myself—my past—into my future.

So here I am now. For the first time, I find myself grasping for the past, wanting to remould the comfortability, the dream that I hid behind in the past which would permit continued wishful waiting and which would again trap me in the slow-moving nature of childhood for some time longer. For the first time, I have experienced a new, quicker type of time that demands my attention to be in the present. Consequently, being that I only recently have been able to distinguish a past life (that of childhood) from my current, young adult one, I have become more reflective, appreciative, and somehow more existential than my eight-year-old self (which, recalling my last article, was frighteningly radical for a child).

With my recent realisation of the way time scarily speeds through us adults, I’ve turned to a sort of selfish humanism; humanism nevertheless. I have responded to this new experience by turning myself into a listening stranger, for others to comfort themselves by sharing their life reflections with me. And I am comforted in their persisting interests, their optimism, their acceptance of time and admiration of the way it allows for artistic reminiscing. They seem uninterested with time, or at least not interested with its nature, which to me is currently terrifying. Perhaps when you have a decent amount of it behind you, it becomes less frightening, or at least easier to accept. I hope this is the case with me.

I have turned those older than me into artists, taking their experience as a comforting story that teaches me that I am not alone, that I am human, and that nothing really changes. I can persist despite time as ageing is a protest that keeps up its fight, even while knowing its inevitable loss.

As an artist, maybe this is good. I wrote a pretty little story a while ago about a 3×3 photograph of a sculpted fairy that I carried with me for a period of time. To me, she was real, she seems to have sculpted the nostalgic memories that I have of my childhood worldview. I’m grateful to have this to creatively work with, to understand and know myself with. So, perhaps the way the past seems to blend together and form little watercolour lives is something to look forward to: something that, to an artist, can be taken as an unnerving gift.