The size of now

The future is a very big place.

I know this to be true, because I have spent a lot of time there– typically getting lost in the big-ness of it.

It’s an easy place in which to get lost, in part because there are no reliable maps. Geographically speaking, the future is akin to those oceanic margins that cartographers of old so helpfully labelled “Here be Dragons.” Indeed, there may well be dragons. Or baby unicorns. Or giant radioactive sea slugs. A big problem with navigating the future is that, not only is it immeasurably big, it is also many. If I start from the point in time where I stand right now, I can see a multitude of possible futures, each one uncharted, each one spinning off into infinite combinations and permutations that shift and sway with each forward step.


Granted some of those possible futures are more probable than others. Given what I remember about the science of probability from high school math, I would put my money on the giant radioactive sea slugs before I would trust in the odds of a big lottery win. Especially since I don’t buy lottery tickets. But the fact remains that even the most well-informed prediction is no guarantee that something I anticipate is actually going to happen. And as for wishes

I’ve made a lot of wishes. I’ve wished on stars, wished on birthday candles, wished on trains going over bridges and coins thrown in fountains. I’ve wished away a lot of perfectly good nows in pursuit of some pretty nebulous what-ifs.

You know what I mean, because you’ve done it too.

Things will be better when…

I would be happier if…

I just need to hang on until…

But the future is a big place. So big that we can wander there forever without ever finding our way to the precise whens and ifs and untils on which we have staked our happiness.


“Here be dragons” was intended as a caution to the wayward mariner who dared wander beyond that which was known. It has taken me into my 50s to embrace the realization that all I can ever know for certain is now.

And, unlike the future, now is a very small place. Small, and surprisingly manageable.

It took me five decades of wandering lost through the dragon-territory of what-if and if-only to fully appreciate the size of now.

Now is the size of a single footstep.  Now is the size of the first word of the conversation you are dreading. Now is the size of the registration form for that course about that thing you’ve always imagined learning how to do.  Now is the size of picking up the phone to call the travel agent, the real estate agent, the divorce lawyer, the tattoo artist, the friend you had the falling out with. Now is the size of a single push-up. Now is the size of the word “no” when you would previously have said “yes.” Now is the size of the word “yes” when you would previously have said “no.”

Now is a place small enough to navigate without a map, because you can see all the way to the edges from wherever you stand. And you hardly ever see dragons.



167 thoughts on “The size of now

  1. Gloria

    We’ve all been hearing about the power of ‘now’ but this wasn’t written as a lecture or as a how-to or as an admonishment like most of them are. This was written from your heart, from your own experience. I love how you listed the specific people / instances that we all procrastinate about. This is beautiful. Thank you.

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  4. I’ve just realised something: ‘Now’ backwards is ‘Won’. Just how many ‘Now’ opportunities could I have ‘Won’ if I’d had my ‘Now’ Cap on. Great Post.

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  6. “Here may be Dragons”… what a wonderful account of the unknown. Curious that cartographers designated ‘here’ to belong to ‘Dragons’ as opposed to mermaids or something more hopeful to be drawn to. That’s the nature of fear though isn’t it… it puts dragons where mermaids could be. I had never heard of “here be dragons” before, thank you for the education 🙂 and the opportunity to muse a little more.. Amanda x New follower 🙂

  7. Reblogged this on I spy and commented:
    Great piece on how our fear of the unknown reflects on the decisions we make. Great advice for a stuck 22 year old trying to learn the “art of getting her shit together”.

  8. Reblogged this on Perspectives in Development and Evaluation and commented:
    How to train your dragon comes to mind, not the movie but it’s meaning. ‘Dragon’ could represent the mind, or maybe fears. And that we need to learn how to go about training these toward the direction it needs to take. And the more sensible and urgent destination is, now. Thought for today, the 116th Independence Day of the Philippines, after 377 years of Spanish rule.

  9. jaystrayed

    Thank you for this post. It was just what I needed to read. Ive spent so much time lately thinking about the future that have forgotten about Now.

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