I’ve spent my entire life trying to make time stop. I’ve got a terrible memory, and to cope I try to record every detail of my life. This was how I got into writing. In elementary school, I attempted to keep diaries so I wouldn’t forget what happened each day, no matter how mundane the details, because someone might find it insightful—whether a historian in 500 years or myself in 10. I wrote with the intention of my words being read. Somewhere, hidden in old school notebooks, there are entries that document my life and the progression of it. Sometimes I recounted my day in full detail; other times I stuck to the bare minimum.

Monday, November 7, 2011. Jordan A. Sanchez. I am 9 years old. I feel good today.

It wasn’t until middle school that I started writing for my present self rather than a distant Future Jordan. The world was getting a lot bigger than my immediate family, and the thought of a version of myself that didn’t currently exist was too much to think about. I learned words and phrases I could use to describe the world I saw: racism, sexism, big bang, gravity. In addition to helping me remember the new things I learned or wanted to learn, writing became a creative outlet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017. Jordan A. Sanchez. I am 15 years old. I really like my physics class. It makes me feel like I know everything and nothing at the same time.

What attracted me to physics was everything you get to study after learning the basics, but what I grew to love about the subject is how it gave me the power to better understand and explain the space I existed in. Instead of asking you to sort new knowledge into old buckets of things you’ve learned in the past, physics forces you to create entirely new buckets of information. The more I learned, the more I was able to see the world in new ways. Sometimes it was the backdrop to an algebra problem with accelerations and masses, and other times it was a giant jumble of all the “-isms” I could think of. Both ways of seeing the world were correct, even if it felt like I was looking at two different things.

Friday, June 14, 2019. Jordan Sanchez. I am 17 years old. I performed at the Apollo Theater today. I want to write about climate change more.

One of my writing mentors used to say, “Through art, change hearts, and change minds.” That’s what makes poetry such a powerful tool. At our core, most people want the same thing: for us and those we love to be safe. Actively choosing to see this commonality while searching for others is how I found my footing as a poet. When it comes to problems we may not yet know how to solve, the same emotions overcome us: fear, confusion, frustration, hopelessness. So when I wrote and performed “On Climate Denial,” and later “Reimagine, Recreate, Restore,” the goal was always the same: Write something that reminds people that this is their world and they have the power to change it.

Monday, June 21, 2021. Jordan Sanchez. I am 19 years old. It’s been about a month since the UNEP poem launched. Over 150 million people have seen it. What is my life?

As I navigate college and consider potential avenues for my future, I’m forced to think about Future Jordan as a real person with a life that I have the power to affect. I’ve thought about choosing one interest over the other: poetry or physics, activism or academics. But I don’t have to. They’re two different ways of achieving the same goal of understanding the world so it can be made better. The root of your work, no matter what field or industry you’re in, should always be helping people or society in some way—that is our obligation as humans. But if you can’t communicate with the people you’re trying to help, if you can’t resonate and connect with people outside of the lab or the office, then what is it all for?

So when I ask, “Have you ever seen time fly?” in “Reimagine, Recreate, Restore,” I have no choice but to say, “I must have.” I’ve witnessed it through my writing, through the knowledge I acquire, and through the forever changing ways I see the world. The more hats I wear, the more lenses I’m able to use, the more there is for me to document and work to improve. This is something I intend to do for the rest of my life.

Someday. Jordan Sanchez. I am today years old. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I’m looking at the same world I’ve always looked at, and I’m trying to make it better.

Written for the Fall 2021 issue of the Society of Physics Students‘ Observer. Read it here.

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