When I leave a room I know I will never enter again, the door always seems a little heavier. I often make it a matter of personal will to not look back in the moment (in the literal and figurative senses), but nevertheless I sometimes do. The truth is that when a phase of life ends, even a difficult one, it is troubling for a nostalgist like me. When things change, it isn’t always a simple turn of a page or the rays of a new day’s sun on my face. Change is a challenge for me – always has been, always will be. And though another truth be that change occurs inevitably in conjunction with both progress and regress, the weight of a closing door is figurative of the solemn benediction of yet another episode of my life, and these days it seems to be happening more and more often.
Several weeks ago I was sitting tranquilly on my front porch when two strangers approached the walk and greeted me. I asked what they were up to and they informed me that they were there to tour my house as potential tenants for the new contract year. This came to me as a complete surprise. The management company had placed all of our rental contracts up for sale without advising us first, and it appeared for a moment that we were losing control of our futures. I had talked casually with my house-mates about the situation prior, but obviously not enough to know it well. Put lightly, I was shaken up – not because of the spontaneous visit of two fellows innocently looking for a place to live, but for my own stark realization that my current situation was about to change – and change bigly. I realized at that moment that I had no idea what was coming next. All I knew was my porch. I was lost in my summer sanctuary, and I confess that for a moment, so characteristic of me at that, I believed that the good times would last indefinitely. Once again, I was not prepared for change.
Summer escaped us all like a paper lantern in the wind, and all but one of us has moved from the house. The neighborhood will change. People considered friends will likely never be seen again, and such is life. New people will form a new community and our memory will soon be erased as ghosts in the streets. Earlier in the summer while at a social event, I serendipitously bumped into a family we used to live by nearly fifteen years ago. We moved out of the neighborhood in 2005 and they too have since moved to a neighboring town. We enjoyed talking about those times and all of our mutual friends and neighbors. The man mentioned something to me that made an insightful impression. He said, “During those years we lived in sort of honeymoon phase. Everyone knew each other. But starting about the time you guys moved out, things started to change. Before long, families started moving out in droves, and we found that it was time for us to get out too.” In life we might find ourselves in “honeymoon” phases without even really knowing it. What I learned is that honeymoons end. You can’t base your plans and decisions on those honeymoon circumstances that inevitably change. All we can do is seek to enjoy them the best we can, and preserve the memory. Fifteen years down the road you might even stumble upon someone in your life right now and have a wonderful exchange as you reminisce of “those days” – the days you are currently living. Then you will part ways again like you will do soon enough now. Give yourselves something to talk about.
Soon the weather will change to cold. For some (most), summer romances will end and they will greet the fall with empty pockets and lonely hearts. I had the chance to stay in my house, but I didn’t take it. I chose to leave. So why am I writing this with a seeming longing for it all? Because I will miss it, of course. But I know it is time for me to move on. It is this that causes a profound dissonance in my soul that makes life a tad more rigorous – but a whole lot more meaningful. Though change is hard, remembering what was is far more rewarding. True rings the oft-spoken cliché, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!”
This past year has not been easy by any means. I was chuckling recently with a few old buddies about it. We talked about our good run. We gave it a solid go. We all grew up a little more. We stuck our necks out a little further, and I think we’re better for it. What were once just average days have become the good old days. I am often accused by those close to me of looking at life through the rear-view mirror, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. For me, the endings and changes in our lives are opportunities not only to look to the future with optimism, but to stop for a second and cherish the moments that happened. The future will come soon enough, and the past is fleeting. That’s why I love it so much. Change has pushed me along in life, and simultaneously provided me my most cherished ability – that of making lasting memories.
In fine, these moments we are living can never last. Like a sad old man looking at photographs with tears in his eyes, change and final acts are real. Change is as loyal as death, and the sooner we learn to accept them both the better our lives will be. I suppose that for me it will always be a struggle to make those subtle adjustments and greet each new horizon with that vigor and optimism so valuable and pure. This week I begin yet another chapter in the story of my life, having no idea whatsoever regarding what lies ahead. But this I know for sure, and that is that I have lived a tremendous life so far, and yes, it has been filled with changes and newness. I therefore have created quite positively the best of both worlds, that of cherishing the past and embracing the future. I recommend that all of you do the same.
You say you wander your own land
But when I think about it
I don’t see how you can
You’re aching, you’re breaking
And I can see the pain in your eyes
Says everybody’s changing
And I don’t know why
You’re gone from here
And soon you will disappear
Fading into beautiful light
Cause everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel right
So little time
Try to understand that I’m
Trying to make a move just to stay in the game
I try to stay awake and remember my name
But everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel the same
(Everybody’s Changing, Keane)