I’m riding home from mom’s birthday dinner, sitting in the backseat for the first time in who-knows-how-long, colored by unexpected tenderness. 

I remember some of my younger selves as they, too, rode home in the backseat, their identities preserved in sedimentary layers of nostalgia. Cradled by memory’s cool mist, I am at once my truest self. I want nothing more than what passes by the backseat window. I think this is joy. 

One of those past selves is a child, no more than ten, pausing to glance in the rearview mirror before getting out of the car, consciously acknowledging his face for maybe the first time, thinking that he’s ugly, and wishing he could change, wishing an older self like me would come and say there’s nothing wrong with him.

And I do, right now, while sifting through the backseat time capsule for more morsels of that child’s becoming. What did time preserve, what was forgotten, and why? Recollections feel purposeful only because they remain; many more vanished in the dark. Out of infinite stars, we only marvel at the ones we can see. 

There is no purpose, no meaning to contrive, just whatever comes of your ongoing process of least resistance, like right now, flowing through what was once a painful experience with a placid, compassionate gaze. When you find this process, protect it, nurture it, let it grow. 

Watch as all of your past selves suddenly align, each one eclipsing the one before them. Against the glow of whatever light love emits, they cast the shadow of who you’re meant to be. To me, it looks like moonlight tracing the outline of a man sitting in the backseat of a car, on his way home to eat some birthday cake.

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