escaping time and reality

Ellie Huo
4 min readFeb 24, 2022

Last night, Dad spent over 2 hours teaching me how to do taxes since this was my first time. And I couldn’t help but keep eyeing his hair that he dyed darker to hide his all whitened head. Every time, I see my parents and other older aunties, uncles, grandparents, friends’ parents, I re-realize how much they aged since I last remember them or maybe in my brain, I’ve only kept memories of when they were younger. In my memory, it was just last year when Dad was still holding me and my sister’s hands to get street food and the vendor auntie saying that she thought our dad was our older brother. And that was when I was 12 and now I’m 20.

When other people say it seems as if yesterday that we were still all younger, I don’t know if they’re using a figure of speech or if they actually feel as if yesterday because I actually still think it was like last year. I don’t know if this is what’s called dissociating where time passes and you aren’t present in it. This may be a totally wrong term to use but all I know is that I am escaping reality. In the past, maybe escaping happened more naturally as I don’t have memory of a lot of stuff and low and behold, I’ve already lived 20 years with probably less than 20 childhood memories. But now, I actively escape reality or more than escape, I avoid it.

I avoid voluntarily talking to my parents because of the pain it makes me feel seeing how much they aged and how their bodies are failing them. And then I proceed to feel guilty that I’m not even cherishing the moments now because they will only keep aging. Life is so heavy in the realization that time is leading me into my prime years (or that’s at least what the world calls it) and future and “there’s so much ahead of me” as it’s stripping away my parents’ health and life, one white hair at a time. It’s very ironic and I have locked myself in my own thought cycle and getting messages and calls from them, now gives me anxiety because I don’t know what to do. I don’t like celebrating my birthday because it’s a reminder of this heavy realization.

Mom and Dad have also been going through past photos and videos and sending them in our group chat. I wonder what goes on in their heads as they see them, as they see their once younger self, that is still full of energy, who are early on the journey of experiencing the commitment of a giant chunk of their lives to raise their children. I wonder if it also feels surreal to them how many years have passed since it always feels surreal to me that that was younger me. My brain has a blurry conception of what I look like and sometimes looking in the mirror, I wonder how my body has changed without me noticing or feel like a stranger until I stop looking because my brain sometimes scares me that the person in the mirror (my reflection) will start moving on its own.

I don’t even know if the majority of people have these thoughts or if there even is a minority group that shares these experiences. I don’t know if this is normal, a consequence of a physical health issue, a symptom of a mental health or multiple mental health issues or if it’s just me. I don’t know if this is just aging and growing up or am I gaslighting myself. I don’t know and I don’t know how to know.

There’s probably some logical action items that I could take but I just want time and life to stop for me. I need to breathe but every thing keeps moving too fast. And when I come back to reality, it’s already too overwhelming to take in anymore. It’s like your submerged in the middle of an ocean, blocking out the noise of the world and when it’s time that you leave the waters, you realize that the noise is way louder than your eardrums can ever take anymore and the surface of the waters is way more chaotic than you expected. And you don’t know where to swim or where is land but you do know how to re-submerge yourself back into the water and you do know that under the water, it was more peaceful. As I’m writing this, I’m also realizing that maybe this is one of the reasons, I started associating death with relief. As it is a stop of time and life, but at that point there’s no need to breathe which is also … another relief.

Amidst all my unknowns, I do know that life doesn’t just end on earth and is portrayed through my hope in God as I use the word “yet” trying to trust in His timing and promises. As a Christian, I should be joyful that we get to live with this hope. And as you can see, I’m not really living a joyful life in this reality that I would like to believe by living it out. Because at the same time it brings me assurance it also brings many tears of the uncertainty if I will see Dad in heaven and I feel so helpless. Yes, I can keep spreading the Gospel to him just like there’s always some logical action items but I’m also very incapable. I don’t know what to do after I un-submerge myself from the waters and life keeps throwing new things at me. It’s like I’m going to an axe throwing room except I am the axe target and have to watch these axes fly at me, no escape.

I don’t know how to end this blog because my life is currently in the axe throwing room. I would like to keep writing of how I was accepted back into reality and how I accepted the reality of time but I haven’t … yet.