The other day my boyfriend sent me a photo that said, simply, “If it won’t matter in five years, then don’t waste your energy worrying about it.” I’m not sure whether this was his intuition, expert mind-reading, or some kind of sign from God, but I received that picture at a very relevant time and just stared at it for a minute, wondering how and why sometimes things happen exactly and unconsciously when we need them.
I tend to be the kind of person who worries over things I can’t control. Sometimes I like this part of me because it’s a reflection of my big heart—I care, and so I want to plan, to fix, to arrange the future as best as I possibly can. But most of the time this part of me sucks. I stress over what is impossible to shift; I let external factors and people shape the way I see the world. (Which is extremely counterproductive, in case you were wondering.)
This photo was a reminder that we can spend our lives stressing over all the little things we can’t control, or we can close our eyes and let it all go—focusing instead on what we can change and exhaling all the negative energy.
As I was reading that photo, I was reminded of the simple fact that our time on this earth is impermanent. We aren’t guaranteed a set number of days or experiences; we don’t have forever to love, to give, to feel, to grow. And so we can’t waste time on things that are trivial—petty fights, minor disappointments, failed plans, broken promises. Sure, these things may hurt, but they won’t hurt forever. And sure, we’re allowed (and should) embrace every emotion, but we can’t obsess to the point that we lose sight of what actually means something.
We can’t let the temporary break us permanently; we have to keep everything in perspective. If this won’t matter years down the road, we have to let it go.
In five years, what will we remember? Will we really still think about the dent in our car? The cappuccino that was the wrong flavor? The hurtful word a friend said in anger? These little frustrations, annoyances, problems, pain—will they forever be so close to our heart? Or will they fade? And if we can weigh them out on the grander scale, can we acknowledge that they’ll eventually disappear from our minds? Can we then exhale, breathe, move on?
When we think about it—none of this really matters. Not the moments we fall down, not the jobs we didn’t get, not the friends who turned their backs, not the broken hearts. That’s not to say these things aren’t painful because they are, but it is to say that everything is temporary—even us—and so why waste any more time giving negative things our energy?
With an impermanent existence on this earth, why wouldn’t we focus on the good?
Yet, in the same breath, we must acknowledge the contradictions in which we live: none of this matters, but all of this matters. With a limited amount of time, the way we laugh, the way we love, the way we move, the way we heal matters.
When we say ‘none of this matters’ it doesn’t mean our time here is purposeless. It means that since we don’t know if even our next breath is guaranteed, what becomes important is not the little annoyances but how we can share the small moments with one another. What’s important is not the mistakes but the ways we rise. What’s important is not the brokenness, but the healing, the loving, the forgiving, the starting over.
None of this matters, yet all of this matters in terms of letting go what holds us back and letting in what lifts us. In terms of loving, living, feeling, growing and not allowing the negative break us to the point that we forget why we’re here.
Will it matter in five years? No? Then let it go. Instead channel your energy into what does mean something—the connections, the relationships, the happiness, the discovery, the continuance, the making the most of our impermanent time on this earth.
One day we will all cease to exist.
Will we be proud of the life we’ve lived?