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Just saying the words out loud, “Twenty-twenty,” makes me feel uncomfortable. I can’t remember fearing 2018 or 2019 like the way I fear 2020.
It will mark 10 years (10 years!) since I was transfixed by the Vancouver Olympics as a child growing up in the Lower Mainland. Eight since I started high school, four since I graduated and three since I declared my major at the University of Victoria.
It will be two years since my last intimate relationship. Six years since my grandmother passed away, and two since my parents spilt up and cancer took my aunt’s life way too soon.
I can’t help but feel like I’m in a passenger seat of the DeLorean watching my life fly by (2020 will mark 35 years since Back to the Future made its debut in theatres) and wishing Marty McFly would transport me back to 2010 so I could tell a 12-year-old version of myself what to expect.
I’d tell myself not to cry as the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the NHL Finals in 2011 and tell him to get used to the team’s pain ahead in the decade.
Change will occur at a dizzying rate, I’d also say to myself. You’ll graduate high school and leave for university in a city with no family members to fall back on. After a summer counting down the days until you start university, you’ll cry alone in your dorm room that first night away from home – wishing Mom would cuddle and read you Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever, like she used to when you were anxious.
I’d tell myself to relish every family dinner and not to stuff my face as quickly as possible so I could hide in my bedroom, while 30 of my cousins, aunts and uncles flooded the house with conversations I couldn’t wait to run from. Your shyness may make you terrified of walking in the living room as the extended family stares at you. But give it a shot anyway. The first step is always the hardest. You’ll start to attend funerals in the not too distant future for those family members that you so desperately wanted to avoid as a child.
And it is in that living room of your childhood home where your fondest memories will be created. It’s where you’ll play Pictionary and Monopoly late into the night, watch all six original Star Wars movies with your dad, and debate whether this would be the year the Canucks finally win it all.
I’d tell myself to enjoy every family vacation, every weekend trip to Costco and even family arguments, because when you’re alone, and your parents split up, you’ll look back on every opportunity you had together and feel tears welling up in your eyes.
Change, I see now, has always scared me. And as we end the 2010s, 2020 has gotten me thinking where I’ll be when the 2020s come to a close. In 2030, when I turn 32, ideally I should have found a wife, a stable job and would like to be thinking of having children of my own, which is hard to fathom as a university student still figuring how to live on my own for the first time. I still don’t know how to file my taxes or the difference between a chequing and savings account or how to cook anything but stir-fries and pasta for dinner. Although I’m 21, I still feel like a 10-year-old some days. Ten years from now, will I be the parent deciding what to make my children for dinner?
The year 2020 will also mark seven years since I started counselling for anxiety and depression. It’s when I get thoughts like this – like if I’m making chicken stir-fry for my hypothetical kids in 2035 – that I think back to what my counsellor told me about falling into these wormholes and worrying about ideas or thoughts I cannot control.
Not every twentysomething has their life figured out for when they turn 30 – and if I live my life in constant fear, I’ll miss out on the everyday moments that make life worth living.
In hindsight, I could have done things differently. It’s easy to look back and wish that I could teleport back to 2010 and tell myself what to expect and change.
I should have been a better boyfriend, a more emotionally stable person and a kid who looked forward to every family outing and celebration. But if I didn’t learn the hard way, I wouldn’t have turned into the person I am today.
Instead, I will tell Marty to open the passenger door of the DeLorean and let me out so I can embrace the mistakes I made throughout the past decade.
I look forward to living in the moment and without fear over the next 10, 20 or even 30 years. Because one day, sometime soon (but not too soon) I’d like to be the grown-up comforting my mom at the end of Munsch’s book.
Josh Kozelj lives in Victoria.