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A Tale of Two 2 O'clocks

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My sister works in broadcast journalism for a radio station in Boston. On my way home from the gym one Thursday, I called her so we could catch up. She told me about work and how she would have to wake up at 2 a.m. the next morning to chase a story. I cringed at the early wake up time and saluted her commitment. Then I realized, I would likely be up at the same time that night because I was planning to go out.

We reveled in this idea -- there we would be, in different cities, experiencing that time in completely different ways, and yet sharing it -- in our wakeful state, but even more so in our appreciation of what that wakeful state would represent.

This overlap at odd hours of our lives seemed to capture the essence of being in your prime, chasing something.

After all, these are the years for both fervent pursuit of dreams and dancing through the night until you greet the sunrise. Eventually, the opportunity - and more importantly, the energy required -- for both will fade. So now is the time, and the adamant pulse and temptation of each route is palpable.

That hour of the morning that is either late or early depending on your perspective, the conflicting pulls of dedicated goal hunting and ceaseless hunger for celebration coalesce and find a horde of 20-somethings and 30-somethings trying desperately to commit to one or the other, or better yet, to find a way to straddle the line between the two.

This intersection of desires in different directions is symbolic of a mental and emotional crossroads that seems to be prevalent for people in this very journey-oriented, often ambiguous, often unnerving phase of life. I know I fluctuate constantly between two sentiments.

There is this desire to spend my 20s out and consumed by the current of the current moment. Entrenched in the exhilaration of meeting people and discovering things and having random adventures, dancing away any concern, surrounded by friends who share the sentiment, drunk on my own sense of contentment and invincibility, certain in that moment, that that moment will last forever. This yearning stems from this deeply-rooted sense of life's fleetingness and the need to fill it with laughter and memories and spontaneity before it whisks by me. I am sometimes overtaken by the insatiable taste for adrenaline, for fun at its peak, for the exquisitely acute awareness of being alive and utterly content in a moment.

Then, I find myself seeking a different adrenaline. The one borne of fighting tooth, nail, and failure for something I'm passionate about. I yearn for sleepless nights because my dreams keep me awake -- nights where my mind can't fathom stillness because it races with ambitions and it's cluttered with ideas, all so eager to be pursued they crash into each other constantly. The allure of an exhaustion wrought of real dedication -- that irreplaceable rush that comes from a passion given the space and support to stretch to its full extent. This yearning also stems from this deeply-rooted sense of life's fleetingness and the need to fill it with something meaningful and lasting -- something that will leave an imprint, if only on my own soul.

The overlap seems to be an awareness that now will not last forever; that life moves ever forward and some windows close. On any given day, either desire can outweigh the other. The rest of my time surrounding the 2 a.m. epicenter of desire is spent contemplating the value in each option, seeking out some sort of balance. There is a subtle pressure, an inaudible clock ticking, reminding me that now is the time, now is the time. Because one day 2 a.m. might stop being full of possibility.

So my sister was up at 2 a.m. in Boston, seeking a story. And I was up at 2 a.m. in New York, in some ways seeking a story as well, or a memory or a thrill. Most days at 2 a.m., I'm asleep. But the crossroads it represents of two equally fervent passions I feel captures the unique pulse of being young and desiring in different directions.

It is a time that embodies what seems to remain when youthful vigor and uncertainty are fermented by the pressure exuded by time's constant motion; it is the pinnacle of the chase -- we're all chasing something, whatever it is. And whatever it is, we all seem to be willing to look at it under the light of the rising sun, hoping that that new light, saturated with possibility, will confirm to us that we're chasing something worthwhile.