When I was in the eighth grade, I had a friend who liked to overuse the word forever, and so we made an agreement that every time she said the forbidden ‘f’ word, she owed me a dime. Because forever can be nice when I love you forever. You’re my best friend forever. I’ll be here forever. But it can be overwhelming when it’s Will I feel this sad forever? Will I be broken hearted forever? Is everything changed forever? And so my friend and I avoided the word, and I never got rich off of dimes, because it seemed easier to ignore the nothing lasts forever fact than to acknowledge that change is real and is the only constant, and it’s also the only thing that keeps the good times rolling.
And as I packed up my college apartment for the final time this weekend, I was reminded of all the times when, as a child, I lamented on the moments that were gone forever. That I could never have back. The perfect days and perfect times that were gone forever, and, at the time, I thought I would spend my whole life wanting those days back. As I packed up my room, a certain type of sadness hit me, as I felt this way again. Not a crunching sobbing sadness; instead, the type of sadness where tears fall slowly and unwillingly from your eyes. They’re just there, like your body is trying to eject some of the internal sadness. And you realize that you’ve done everything for the last time. I will never again return to that apartment to be greeted by my roommates. Never again will I set that kitchen oven on fire. Never again will I stay up late watching One Tree Hill with one roommate, or crying with another roommate, or having nearly-middle-of-the-night conversations with another. Never again will I walk down four sets of stairs to be greeted by my best friend. Never again will I live surrounded in this community where I maybe know everyone and they maybe know me, and we’re all happy to just be. And I can’t have that back. And it’s gone. Forever. And so I cry. Because maybe I could go back to grad school and get my PhD, but this year, as I knew it, is finished, and prolonging the ‘college’ thing won’t change the fact that it is, in essence, over. Forever. And so I cried some more.
I am not a creature of change. Instead, I oppose it, like a protester opposing war. Because there are many times in my life when I have wished that things didn’t have to change. That they could stay the same forever. Because I don’t like goodbyes. I don’t like saying goodbye to people, moments, or places. I don’t like moving on and letting go, because when life is so good, I don’t like to risk what might arrive with change.
On the drive home, my mom asked me what the happiest moment of my life was, and I realized something: I don’t have a Happiest Moment Ever. My life is littered with great moments, happy moments, perfect moments. Of course, sad moments, broken moments, and lost moments have found their way in there, too. But my life has been good. Despite the change. Or perhaps, in spite of the change. Because no great thing has ever ended and left me with nothing great to follow. Had I let The End of High School’s tears stop me from spreading my wings and moving forward, I wouldn’t be feeling this new sadness now. Choosing not to move on won’t make time pause. It won’t freeze a perfect moment or help it last forever. It won’t make those around you pause; instead, it halts you. It captures you, like sinking sand on a muddy beach. Everyone around you will move on, and you will be left to watch, as you hold onto a moment of time that no longer exists.
The realization that something cannot last forever is the commencement of something new. Something beautiful. Because no chapter has ever ended without the turning of a new page, unless it’s the end of the story. And our story isn’t ending. We’re 22 and fresh out of college, and we’re turning a page, and we’re beginning again, and it feels horribly overwhelming as we wonder what exactly our post grad plans entail, but then it also feels good to remember that The Best Day Of Our Life has yet to come. We’ve had great moments. Happy moments. Perfect moments. And the best is still yet to come.
And in the meantime, we have this weird sense of loss filling our souls, as we miss those we love and those who love us. And though I hope one day I don’t want to cry quite so much as I think back on my college home with longing, I do hope that a small part of me forever misses that life. Because even though it’s sad, it’s important to miss things. To miss people. To miss moments. Because it shows they mattered. And sometimes the anticipation of something (like post grad life) is not as horrible as the reality. I hope this is true. I hope the people who have lived in fear of their 2014 graduation find that it’s not as bad as they envisioned. But I hope to still find myself nostalgic for these days. I hope everyone who’s saying goodbye to something-anything-anyone right now finds that they feel a sense of nostalgia when they look back. Because that means it mattered. And in this world where we’re all trying to extend our story and keep moments forever, missing things is important. Being missed is important. If you cannot physically be with or near a person you love, the next best thing is to miss and be missed by the person you love. Because moving on isn’t the tragedy. Spreading your wings and flying isn’t the heart wrenching problem. Forgetting is.
Because in ten years when someone asks me about The Best Moment of My Life, I hope I still struggle to think of just one moment. I hope I still think back to a life filled with great, happy, and beautifully perfect moments that happened amidst the changing seasons and shifting times. I hope that each time I think nothing lasts forever, I remember that memories can. If only you remember to remember. If only you let yourself feel the sense of missing. If only you move forward, but hold the past and its people in your heart, and maybe in your hand as you text them.
We’re always told to let go of the past. But I say to hold onto it. Because it has shaped us. And these moments are the only thing we can hold onto forever. Holding onto these moments is what makes them infinite, is what keeps them from never ending. It’s what makes us love and fear forever, all at the same time (because maybe sometimes we have to remember the bad to hold onto the good. But the good is always worth holding onto, and it will always make the bad worth going through.) Hold onto these memories moments safely in your heart, and then move. on. It is time to go forward, once again.
I’ve come to realize we shouldn’t fear something not being forever. Because every time something ends, we’re given something new, and that will let us have not one Happiest Moment Ever, instead a life bursting with Great Moments. Happy Moments. Perfect Moments. And I’d take a stream of free-living, beautiful moments over one unending, frozen-forever moment any day. Even a teary post-college day.