I was born in 1981, and recently, I started to carry around a coin: a Morgan Silver Dollar, from 1881.
It was made 100 years before I was born. It’s been held by people I’ve never met, who are long dead. It’s been passed from father to son (possibly), it’s been treasured and protected, and eventually it found its way onto ebay and into my mailbox.
I do have another Morgan Silver Dollar from 1881. I used to collect coins, when I was a kid, and when I sold the collection when I was in my twenties, it was worth almost one thousand dollars. I kept only a few items from that collection: a silver certificate bill, a supposedly ancient coin (might be middle-ages–it’s pretty rough, actually), and the 1881 Morgan.
Thinking about the one I’ve had for thirty-odd years, vs the one I bought for thirty-odd dollars on ebay has yielded some interested and unexpected realizations.
First, the coins were fungible–one was just as good as another. But now, they’re not. The one from my old collection is far more valuable to me, sentimentally, than the one I bought online. The two coins are non-fungible outside of sentiment too; one has more scratches, and one has a tiny ding in the rim.
But they started out just as good as the other.
I feel like when we’re alive, we’re non-fungible. We’re each different. But after 100 years, how different are we to anybody? We’re someone’s dead relative, and unless we did something extraordinary, we’re likely to be lumped together as a couple of ‘dead Xennials / Gen Xers / Millennials’ (if we’re of similar age).
But those two fucking coins will be even more unique, and they’ll be passed to new owners. Sure, people and stamped metal are orders of magnitudes different in orders of magnitudes ways. But what if your week last month or the same one x years ago was considered? At the time, you might have thought that you were doing something very special…and maybe you were! But the point is that most likely, it was just a week among many.
A person among many, a coin among many. Some things last better than others, and some things don’t last at all.
…So why am I obsessed and so stressed about maximizing this moment? It’s not going to become more unique as time passes, the opposite is more true. But the whole of me, made up of all my weeks–that gets more unique. The scars and injuries, like scratches and nicks on the rim of a coin, help to physically illustrate the path taken through the world, but the accomplishments and joys shared are important too. They add the sentimentality to life, and really they’re what truly matters.
Otherwise, we’re just one thing or another. A trinket off ebay or the one from a box. This dead guy or that one. That’s not the life I want to live, and it’s definitely not the one I want to leave.