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?
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