One of my dear friends is finding herself mired in the same existential crisis facing most of younger twenty-somethings. I guess if I had to title it, I’d call it “The Future Questions: A Beautiful Crisis by Katie Barry.” We’re here, but we’re still not sure if we want to be. Visions of airplanes and different cities float through our minds, Chicago calls me daily, wishing I’d pick up my phone and beg it to take me back.
We’re here, and we’re happy, but we keep waiting for something else.
I find myself stumbling back to South Africa in my mind, at nights, or when I’m driving, or when I see anything that might remind me of the place I temporarily called home. It’s a smell, a conversation, an NPR report. It’s the jerk from behind my belly button pulling me back.
And yet I know there’s nothing left there. We all spoke, in the last days, about going back, but the conclusion was that it could never be recreated, it could never be the same. And it won’t be.
But I miss the cultural conversations, not just South African, but everything. I miss snippets of German flying between my ears (and most certainly out of them again, sans comprehension), I miss black tea (regular tea, don’t call it black, they’ll think you’re being racist), I miss samoosas on Saturday nights and badly fried chips, I miss take aways and the miserable walk to the laundry and Long St by night. I miss stumbling home and fumbling with the gates (oh the gates!) and I miss the sun and the mountains and the city….but what is it that I’m really doing?
We bronze our memories, immortalizing them to gleam in the light, and we forget that they’ll never be like that – that they never were like that to begin with.
I’ve been struggling with that lately. The gleam. I’ve bronzed a lot of memories, made them comfortable and safe, glossed over rough edges. But to return to those nights, to those infinite moments, would be miserable, I think. I watch everyone around me strive for their pasts, stretched equally in their search for their futures, and they’re forgetting that none of those things are so imporant as these quiet moments in which we listen to the hum of the central air, in which we roll down the windows in January for a glimpse of promised spring, in which we fully absorb what we are, who we are…currently.
We can gloss these moments over later. But for now, I want them to saturate my skin and make me whole; I want them to chase me and engulf me and I want to come up gasping for air as though I’ve jumped off that bridge again and forgotten how to breathe.
We’re poor and we’re happy and we just don’t know it yet, because we’re so worried about the rest of it all. It’s coming, we can’t stop it, might as well dance around while we can. Your miserable future self will someday look back at your miserable present self and wish for this again. Fight the gleam, you’re in it.