Friday, November 1, 2013

These Are My Souvenirs

"Here’s to the twilight, here’s to the memories. These are my souvenirs, my mental pictures of everything. Here’s to the late nights, here’s to the firelight. These are my souvenirs..."
- Switchfoot

Moving away from one home to my second home and then moving away from that one within the space of a year has given me the chance to experience a breadth and depth of new emotions.

One of them is a particularly deep, bittersweet nostalgia. And I don’t mean the “remember before facebook” surface-level type that I imagine will become more prevalent as I progress through adulthood. It's the kind that comes more naturally to me with my heart's natural bent to sorrow, the kind that says “remember when we were still allowed to be innocent?”

Largely, I think this kind of nostalgia is emphasized because, as I have said in many conversations, I am aware that there really is no “going home” after you move away. You can go back to the same place, but it will have changed-- circumstances will have changed, the people will have changed, you will have changed. No, you cannot really go back. And that gives the contrast between “then” and “now” a sharpness that bites deep.

I’ve often been in a place the last few years where my day could be wrecked by a simple photograph of a group of friends, knowing that group would probably never be assembled again. Pictures of my siblings when we were all a little younger and a lot more innocent can be even worse.

I close my eyes and go back in time: you were just a child then, and so was I. We were so young, we had no fear. We were so young, we had no idea that nothing lasts forever.
- Switchfoot

Yesterday I was digging for an old picture, and in the process ended up exploring my facebook timeline. Countless old posts, pictures, memories, and stages in relationships flashed before my eyes. And at first I had that familiar deep pang of regret, this feeling that there was a beauty there I will never get back.

Photo taken by my dear friend Kate during the 2010 CP Moot-- easily still the best week of my life
And then I started to try a different focus, dragging my heart away from its natural inclination to mourn. I recognized that some of the most cheerful posts and brightest smiling pictures had been from days or seasons where I was actually really aching down deep inside. Perhaps I can perceive a kind of innocence in interactions then, but the fact is that things I now see as pebbles were mountains to me then because I hadn’t ever crossed them yet.

Nostalgia is an instagram filter for life. It’s easy to use the past’s highlights as an excuse to feel discontent with the present’s lows.

Honesty forces me to admit that in the future, I’ll likely look back on this phase of life and think “if only I could get that back.” I’ve started to make a game of guessing which parts of my circumstances I will miss later-- a game that pushes me to enjoy the moments with the fullest appreciation, drinking them deep and swallowing slow.

Because that is the other side to this: yes, I wrongly romanticize my history at times to feed my own discontent. But I also do myself a disfavor when I swing too far the other direction and pretend it was all ugly. For a long time, I saw much of my childhood and teenage years as only shadow. That is false. This should be proved just by the amount of stories I tell in conversation. I have lived stories and friendships and adventures that are breathtakingly beautiful, and naming them so is part of living life in gratitude and grace. 

Of all the things I still remember, summer's never looked the same. The years go by and time just seems to fly, but the memories remain. In the middle of September, we'd still play out in the rain-- nothing to lose but everything to gain.
- Daughtry

The balance I am trying to strike is being grateful for where I’ve come from without neglecting to keep my eyes ahead. After all, this story is so far from over. I have traded younger joys of the past for some weightier joys in the present. My life may have had time to teach me more of sorrow, but I certainly also know more of grace. And though that, like any part of growing, is not easy, I will continue to believe it's worth it.

"Reflecting now on how things could've been, it was worth it in the end.
- Daughtry

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