Walked past a college dorm today. Cones, cops, SUVs. Freshman Load-in. Hugging parents, kids impatient to kick them back across the curb (after accepting their help carrying the lamp, pillow, fan, laundry basket full of whatever.)
It hit me in a place I wasn't sure I had anymore.
Brought me back to my own first day at Tufts. The first day of the rest, and best part, of my life.
Simple. Hope. "So much to look forward to." Indeed. And so much has happened between then and now. I regret little and have many memories. All, of course, will be gone in sixty years. I'll make more 'til as close to sixty as I can. But they have different meaning than the memories I'd planned to make.
They're smaller. Ironically, they seem more concrete, more recognizable as memories, in hindsight. Relating that I rode a Harley through the Rockies (or was it just the foothills, Joe Werne?) brings to mind an excellent memory. Toward the top of one rise, there was a "scenic overlook" where we took a picture or two. The pictures remain. The memory of the ride exists as a short best-of highlights reel. Sort of a preview in reverse. This restaurant, that bend, this peak, those elk…
The truth of the experience was different. On the way towards that peak, with mist across the road lowering visibility to maybe thirty feet (not bad in a car, but on two wheels, any narrowing of that window can be a bit daunting, particularly for someone who'd only been riding a couple of years, and on Southern California sunlit roads.) The truth was, I spent a good portion of that motorcycle trip through the Colorado Rockies trying not to die. I frequently had to remind myself to enjoy the moment, and only at times where such distraction was less likely to result in my going off a cliff.
We spend most of our time on this Earth, I'd posit, focused on navigating. Old people sitting around remembering…I'd say that's not just because their best time is behind them, but because remembering might be even more fun than doing. We cut out the bad parts. The boring parts. The confusing parts, and just pick the stuff we'd like to define our lives.
I had a lot of lonely times in college, depression, alienation, the whole bit. But that's something I have to remind myself of. What I immediately go to is the good stuff. The shows, the trips, the parties, the music my freshman roommate, David Kaylie, introduced me to, the brilliant biology and drama professors, the sex…
The good stuff. Might as well remember that.
But back to the students. They're about to do all of it. Not just college, but Life. And they're excited, and for the best reason imaginable. They're excited about the experiences to come. From my perspective, I'm more envious of the Time they have than of the experiences they'll have. I've had, and will have, plenty of my own. But their youth. Their excitement…it's all New. The world is new every second for someone. And it always will be. The world will always be new. Not for me, of course, but for US. The lot of us.
As being pulled further from one age milestone has become rocketing towards a bigger, scarier one, as others rather publicly achieve what I aspired to, what I "could have" done when conditions were most favorable (and indeed could - nay - can, do, at least in some fashion, more modestly or not) I feel the scourge of the thing I'd only witnessed in others when I was younger, this thing I knew was for someone else, because I'd know better: Bitterness.(Which is a kissing cousin of Regret, so I lied.) Bitterness is a poison dart equally evil whether pointed inward or outward. It's not an emotion. Emotions all have their positives, else we'd not have evolved to have them. Bitterness (go with me on this ) (you've gone this far) must be the unintentional response to the collision of our emotions. Or our thoughts. Pride, the raft, pushed by the wind, the fickle wind of hope, which fills some sails and leaves others luff and limp. Bitterness is the anchor thrown in an act of defiance, in an attempt to regain control. We sit and eat our sour grapes, ones we'd wished on the better, luckier, more industrious sailors. Our lips purse, our faces shrivel in the sun…we grow to accept our lot and assume we were always meant for it, never acknowledging that we'd given up, it was we who dropped the anchor, and that if we hadn't, the wind may have returned…
And indeed the wind blows high in the sails of these kids coming to school today. But wind, while fickle, does not discriminate. So look for the raft that's skating across the water and get closer to them. You'll likely catch some of their air.
That must be one of the best parts of parenthood. The reminder of the joy, and the power of optimism, even if enabled by naiveté. The daily newness. I imagine the parents down the street, driving away in vehicles a hundred pounds lighter, must be a bit younger for catching some of the wind which pulled their kids away from them, even as they feel the tug of separation. Even if they themselves have been bitter. The direct experience of the perseverance of possibility untinged.
So, kids. Congratulations. For what you're doing, and for the opportunity you have to do it. Time is a gift you cannot possibly comprehend. So I won't bother. But…have fun. And thanks for letting me catch some of your wind. Means everything.