Friday, August 27, 2010

The Way We Were

It turns out the lyrics to David Bowie’s “Changes” don’t actually make much sense. Or if they do, they don’t make any sort of meaningful sense, which is unfortunate, really, because behind love, the subject of change is possibly the topic that lends itself best to verbal depth.

I’m notably bad at change. Not day-to-day change, like when you’re asked to work on a new project at the office or when you have to buy a different shampoo at CVS. I can dig that. But all those little day-to-day changes add up eventually, when you’re not looking, & the next time you take a glance back at your life, it’s largely unrecognizable from the way it used to be.

Much to my consternation, I’ve never been able to get a handle on not pining for days past. This is foolish, really, because the past has not always been good to me, & in the past, I wasn’t always good to myself. But it’s always easier to look back through a lens of nostalgia that longs for the good & funnels out the bad, reminding you only of the parts you miss most.

And sometimes it seems I miss everything.

It seems that when I’m faced with an impending & obvious change, I’m flooded with memories of things I didn’t even realize I missed – other things that have changed, that are long gone, that my brain didn’t even know I’d retained. I have a terrible memory for timelines & dates, for direct quotes & current events. But somehow, my memory is teeming with things I used to do & people I used to do them with, like a silent film that plays through my skull & taunts me: “Remember when?”

I miss first days of school, posing in front of the oak tree in my backyard for photos my mom insisted upon taking. I miss riding bikes & making tchotchkes out of clay in the unfinished bedroom of my best friend’s childhood home. I miss vacations to Hilton Head with my family, Thanksgivings at my grandparents’. I miss summers spent working at the local swimming pool, the free food & weekend parties that came with it. I miss being a performer, the long practices in the local dance studio or on our high school’s stage. I miss Friday night football games & midday pep rallies. I miss being a sorority girl, the hard-partying days spent at fraternity houses & outdoor keg parties. I miss working for college publications, the pace of the newsroom & the humor of the people in it. I miss spending weekends at the neighborhood bar, singing karaoke & eating cheese fries with half the town. I miss my first year in D.C., with five inarguable best friends, exploring a new city together & making our way.

And the people. Don’t even get me started on all the people.

But it's killing me. I want to be able to just look back fondly, to stop remembering & longing & wishing away the present – because I know that when this is gone, I’ll miss it, too. “Remember the last few months in DC?” I’ll ask myself, “Getting everything in & spending time with those people you never see anymore?” By then, it’ll just be more film to add to the reel. But sometimes I get so stuck on the past that it becomes nearly impossible for me to appreciate what’s happening now, to appreciate this before it’s gone, too.

I'm always shocked to realize: The film is never going to stop playing, is it? And in fact, it’s only going to get longer. Maybe parts will fade, be replaced by new scenes, but this is just how life works. There's no going back. I can review but I can't rewind.

How do you stop missing what was & start loving what is?

20 comments:

Arielle said...

I spend way too much time thinking about the past (esp when I hang out with my sorority sisters, all we do is reminisce about ridiculous college days). I don't think there's any way to stop missing the past, unfortunately. Also, I like that we both used the word "tchotchkes" in recent blog posts. =)

phampants said...

I can't say I'm good or bad with change, but I know I do want change. I love reminiscing about the past, but I love creating new memories more. The problem is that I'm just not content with what's before me right now.

christinaanne said...

I still get like this a lot, even though my life is better now than it probably has ever been. It's funny, it seems like the times of my life that I miss the most are often the times that I have the most regret about. I think I regret certain times of my life because looking back I feel like I didn't make the most of those moments(usually because I was living in fear of what people thought of me, or because I was wallowing and longing for other past times, interestingly enough). Perhaps I wouldn't have so much regret if I had lived in the moment and made the most of my time and relationships. And perhaps if I didn't have all of that regret, I would be able to look back fondly instead of pining so much for the past- maybe I miss it and wish I could live it over again because of all the regrets and unresolved issues? I'm starting to believe that learning to live in the moment now is the key to being content throughout life and not missing these times as much once they are gone. Of course, you can't avoid missing things altogether, but maybe it would be easier to move on to the next exciting things in life if I could say with certainty that I had made the most of every experience I was leaving behind.

I don't really know what the point of sharing all of that was or if what I'm saying makes any sense. But if it's any comfort, you are not alone in how you feel. And thanks as usual for perfectly expressing things that I'm feeling but can never quite find the words for. I love you.

jackie said...

All of the anxiety I experience stems from big changes. They are the worst! And I often find myself longing for something in the past instead of cherishing the moment. But, I have found that now that I am better at realizing I am doing it, I can focus more on trying to experience "now" while still having fond memories of the past.

jrgbgold said...

I think the key is to cherish the memories, rather than miss them, and look forward to making new ones. You've dealt with many changes in your life & I think you've done remarkably well, but I know it's difficult. It's been a great chapter -- and the next one will be too...

Erin Gooch said...

To your question: I don't know. I think it's just one of those bittersweet things that life lends you. Each birthday I have is depressing, but beautiful. SIGH!

City Girl said...

Beautiful post, as always! I think it gets easier in your 30s. Very few of my friends in their 30s lack a sense of peace and purpose. Most of us (thankfully) feel like we made the right choice with our live and are just where we should be. I hope that the coming years bring you the same -- or that you are able to love what is more when you're back in Ohio.

Good Girl Gone Blog said...

That's a tough one! I wish I knew that answer...

gem said...

It's totally normal to be like that when you're going through a change! I know I definitely get like that. (And then once my life slows to a normal routine pace, I can't live in the moment because I'm too busy looking forward to little snap moments ahead, like that party that will last only 3 hours or the first time I see that person or the second I'll get out of work, etc.)

Rivki said...

Very well-put. The film never stops playing, indeed. I also have my nostalgic moments about my college days, and immediately post-college days, but my life now is so different and satisfying that it's not like I miss it in that ooo-can-I-go-back-there way, but more like in an ah-wasn't-that-fun-way-back-then sort of way.

I think it's hard to be in the present no matter what changes are going on, but the more time between the memories and the moment, the easier it is to move forward.

Skinny Dip said...

I haven't really figured out how to do this either.

There is so much from the past that I miss, it sometimes it feels unbearable. Of course when I get in one of these moods I tend to overlook the stuff from previous eras that was actually quite crappy. Its easier to look at everything with rose colored glasses. I don't know if I will ever get over this. I've decided that the only thing I can really do is try and make the present as awesome as possible so that I spend less time looking backwards. However, I'm sure that eventually I'll get to a point where I look back on the memories I'm making now & miss them too. That's just how I am.

Marie said...

I think that's probably why I take so many pictures, to make sure I remember things that have happened and keep them as my own little treasures. I try not to live in the past but smile when I remember all the fun I've had and focus more on the now so as to make even more treasured memories.

icantbelieveabletumblr said...

Change really is one of the most difficult things to do. I'm a military brat and have had to deal with change consistently (new places, new friends, new life). It's hard! But it's also exciting! Change is an opportunity. You get to see new places, make new friends, start a new life.

Basically, the way I see it is: We can look back at a time in our lives and reminisce about all the good times we had back then because we have the benefit (or curse, depending on how you look at it) of retrospect. If you really think back on that time you're all warm and fuzzy about and pull back that sentimental film, you'll see all of the uncertainty, angst, frustrations, tears shed and other dark, gloomy moments that also existed back then. We can look at the past and see what we want to see.

Of course we miss things about our lives in the past. But we have the chance to make our lives whatever it is we want it to be in the future. Just put on the rose-tinted glasses now and make each day one worth remembering...

Jaclyn1423 said...

How do you stop missing what was & start loving what is? -- Like this. By writing about it. You -- a writer -- are tailor-made for memory saving.

K8zimm said...

I will go insane if I start living in the past again. I think that's what my pictures are for. I take lots and lots of pictures. Because even in the moments when I'm feelign sad that something I'm experiencing that SECOND is going to be over, I remind myself I can always look at that moment again.

terra said...

I wish I could have figured this out by now, but I haven't. I try to remind myself, in the really good moments of right now, that I need to cherish them and remember the fine details so I can miss them in the future. Now just never seems as good as before.

ann onymous said...

It takes a lifetime to get to the point where you can just slip back and enjoy the scenes of the past, without too much nostalgia. They were great days but, so is today, and next week and the week after --it's a glorious ride! Looking forward is the whole idea!

BugginWord said...

You know what I miss most? Deadlines.

Minnesota Mamaleh said...

this is such a beautiful, reflective post! and i so, so hear you! i love (seriously love) my life today but i can't help but be wistful for, what are now, long ago moments in time.

i found you though in the pink and am so, so very glad that i did! :)

Fab Brunette said...

It's probably one of the hardest things, to stop pining for days past. You will eventually start loving your "now" more and more each day, and eventually you won't miss the past as much. But it definitely takes time.

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