My life before the pandemic was a blur of activities. I was on the run—chasing the next train ride or a looming deadline or a late date night. But everything came to a sudden halt when the coronavirus came. Dreams were crushed. Plans were canceled. Life was messed up.

I am not only confined by the limitations of my capabilities. I am also chained by the high walls of the virus. With nowhere to run, I am forced to take a walk in the park and appreciate what is in front of me.

With time on my side, I explored the forgotten premises of my home. I was in the bedroom going through my belongings, sorting things out when my eyes laid on a brown Hardytogs shoebox with a “Memories” label taped on it. My hands reached for the lid, and I was transported to the magical realm of the past. My afternoon became a nostalgic trip, my decluttering activity entirely forgotten.

I said hi to the golden shine of my medals, which took me back to my academic glory in preschool. The commentator called my name even if I barely reached my seat. Moms and dads murmured, “It’s her again?” It was a proud moment taking medals, my neck aching from the weight of all of them.

How can I forget my crooked teeth before I had my braces? My dentist immortalized my old teeth through a plaster cast. Before, it was for reference purposes. Now, it was a reminder of my high school vanity. I scrolled through my tagged Facebook photos with scorn. I looked at my classmates beside me, all smiles with their metallic treasures glinting in the light. I, on the other hand, smiled with my mouth closed. I was too ashamed to show my teeth. If only I had those metals on, I could smile better.

Seeing the SuperThin wrapper in my arsenal made me laugh hysterically. I made my way to that day when I had it with my crush. I asked him to share the moment (er, the biscuits) with me. Bliss coursed through me. I am usually courageous. If I can conquer my fear of starting a conversation with him, or with anyone, I can do anything. That wrapper is a reminder of my puppy-love foolishness. It was silly, but I smiled with the thought.

I went through piles of letters from friends. All those words and drawings reminded me of the fond memories and the milestones I shared with them, whether we were together or miles apart. All those words written on carefully curated stationery papers folded with intricate love and tenderness. How I wish we could have remained in that time!

There were photos, too. I picked up the one with me and my best friends in a long-sleeved brown uniform ensemble, baring awkward smiles. Classes were done for the day. We were outside our rooms, ranting endlessly about the misery of school projects, unrequited love, and “sipsip” classmates. I remember the boundless energy we exuded in our innocent youth. Where could we possibly spend those balls of energy? We decided to put them to whining.

I pulled out another photo. This time, I was at a Christmas party with my work colleagues. We were geared up for our ’80s themed party, a fresh respite from the formal suits we wore every day. We ate to our heart’s content, sang at the top of our lungs, and danced the night away.

I rummaged further and came out with a dreamcatcher, the purple webby beauty I bought in Baguio. I was then savoring the cold sting, wishing I could bring it with me to the plains. My stomach was full of the heavenly goodness of strawberries and ube jams. I was thinking of the possibility of a love story, bringing home the regret of what could have been if only I was braver and friendlier.

I picked up more odds and ends of my past. Photo booth shots. Seminar name tags. Ticket stubs. Invitations. Every item was a constant reminder of who I was and where I had been before now. These were the moments that turned my gloomy life into fireworks of glorious days. These are the events I would treasure for the rest of my life.

My physical form may not go back in time to these moments, but going through my box of souvenirs took me back to those old days, reliving memories I can never experience again.

There is a tug in my heart—a longing for the gentle times. Scenes play in my head over and over again. Nostalgia fills me, and I wish to live in these moments forever.

That is when I realize I’ve been looking too far ahead, laser-focused on chasing dreams and securing my future that I have forgotten to appreciate what’s in front of me.

I do wish I could go back. But I know I never will.

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