There are certain moments that, while they’re taking place, you can predict one day you’ll look back and cherish. Usually, I imagine, they’re big milestones, like your wedding, or a graduation, or an exotic trip. For the high school students in the chorus I heard last night, performing at Carnegie Hall was definitely one of these moments. You just knew, without knowing anything else about these teenagers standing before you, that this night was special for them. You could tell, without understanding anything else about their lives, that last night would live on in their memories as a gigantic accomplishment.
Which made me wonder: have I ever had any moments like that? Watching them up there, listening to their voices mesh and meld and make notes soar, I thought back on my life up until now. Have I ever done something so grand that even while it was happening I knew it would be important? Have I ever seen or heard or felt something so remarkable that I would unmistakably label it as significant?
Despite having done some cool stuff (lived in Australia, had an essay published in the New York Times, became an aunt), seen some great events (a beach-side sunrise in Miami, the full moon over the Brooklyn Bridge, The Phantom of the Opera in 4 cities), and participated in some amazing things (a hike to the top of a mountain in St. Lucia, my nephew discovering bubbles, the never-ending pasta bowl at Olive Garden–yes, I’m calling a promotion at a mediocre chain restaurant amazing and I don’t care who knows it), none of these contained moments I knew, without a doubt, would be moments I’d look back on later while they were happening.
Which made me wonder: is it better to have one big moment, one unequivocally huge thing you can cherish forever and relive in your mind when you’re old and the potential for meaningful moments has diminished, or lots of little moments that you don’t realize at the time will become the ones that will mean so much to you later on when you look back over the pieces that have formed the puzzle of your life?
The answer I came up with last night, gazing at the young adults unable to hide their joy at standing up there on a prestigious stage, was that one isn’t any better than the other. One big moment can’t make up for all of the little moments, and likewise, all of the little moments wouldn’t add up to the big one if you tried to make them equal. They’re all just moments, and, being so, are only as important or insignificant as we choose to see them. Sure, I think it would be neat to have one of those big moments, but just because I’ve had a lot of little ones so far, that doesn’t mean I won’t still have my big one someday.
But for now, while I wait for that fantastic big deal that everyone around me can tell is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, cherishing the little things suits me just fine.