This weekend, I visited Flagstaff, AZ where I went to university. I spent time with good friends that still live in Flagstaff, and forewarned them I just wanted to relax because I’m a busybody nearly every other day of my life. It must have been difficult for them because usually when you have guests, you entertain them. I was specifically asking to not be entertained, simply to be with there with them.
My friend took me to a place I haven’t been to in years. It’s an overlook I like to call a cliff that has an extravagant view of an empty field and an urban trail. This was literally my back yard during my third year of university. I used to sit on the very tip of the precipice you can see towards the middle-left of the picture, and think. That’s where I listened to the entire album “Monsters in the Closet” by Mayday Parade when it was first released. It’s where I’d stand when I needed an adrenaline rush after hours of studying, and where I’d sit after a long day of engineering exams. I used to think about what I’d be doing after I finished school, what assignments I had due the following week that I could put off and sit there a bit longer, the beauty of the world (and women, to be frank), and imagine scenes from books I’m trying to write, using the landscape like it was something of my own invention. I once brought my brand new violin out there to practice (and I’m not sure it was the best decision I’ve ever made. No doubt I disturbed nature and someone else’s peace that day). My friend, Kellan, and I used to fly homemade remote control airplanes from the ledge that’s in the lower right part of the picture. He’d rev the motor as I gently threw the airplane off the edge, and it always soared beautifully. Even with the high winds, Kellan kept those planes as stable as a boulder on a hillside (I use that metaphor because there was always the risk of the boulder unceremoniously, yet catastrophically, crashing down the side the of the hill).
But one thing I thought about as I sat there on Saturday afternoon was the fact that I feel a longing to go back to that place my nostalgia remembers, but even if I went back, none of it would be the same. Even the landscape would have miniscule changes unobservable by the ordinary eye. That’s the beauty and downfall of memories. I am a completely different person than who I was last time I dangled my feet off of the 50-foot drop. The friends that surrounded me are completely different than they were last time we brought out a couple beers and a fifth of whiskey in the middle of the night and star gazed, dreaming about the future… The days After.
“I like to think nothing has changed,” is what I wrote when I posted the picture on social media. But it always does and it always has. Despite a few of my recent posts on here where I talk about enjoying the process of reminiscing with friends, I realized it’s not healthy to dwell on the past until your heart hurts with longing. Not too often, anyways. I guess there is also a time for that… But I’ve been steeping myself in nostalgia for the last couple weeks, and it’s no longer a good thing. If it weren’t for the fact that I lived back when that cliff was my thinking spot, I wouldn’t have the memory now. All the same, I need to remember to live now so that someday I can look back on now and think, “Man… I wish I could go back,” knowing in the back of my mind that’s not entirely true. I’m fully contented by reliving those places and moments and friends and heart breaks and reconciliations in my mind.
But you don’t ever fully go back. You live now and thank yourself later for living now.
Promise me that.
“God gave us memories so we could have roses in December.” – J. M. Barrie