Well, for starters, memory leaves out some details. You forget how awful your college dorm hallway smelled. You forget how greasy and gross your formerly favorite foods are. The chiffon-lensed remembrance of familiar places kept you from choking on the dust, the bugs, and the heat. You realize that every town that Norman Rockwell captured was really just like every other town. And that some towns don't even deserve to be painted. You see the flaws in Mona Lisa's complexion.
But despite all this, you still smile and say, yes, that was my home and I loved it. But the old cliche stands true: you can't go home again. Not really.
A voice inside Don Henley's head insisted that he could never look back. And it's almost right, in a way. You can look back, but you can't ever go. And you don't want to try. Because the memory is pretty, the memory vacuums the corners and sweeps the cobwebs. And the world where the memory used to live doesn't.
But despite all this, you love the place. You love the people. Even the ones you can't stand, you still miss. But now nostalgia is tempered with realism, stoked in the fires of expectation and pounded with the hammer of experience. Sometimes it breaks. Sometimes it stays true. I think my nostalgia remains intact, but thinner. Tougher. More useful.
One of my lasting worries, one I've had for a long time, is forgetting. I often feel that everything needs to be documented, every detail, every song, every story. That voice inside my head says, "Write it down, dave, write it all down, write the world down, because it's fading so so quickly, to shadow, to dust." I'm a documenter. This is part of why I write. This is half of why I blog. I build bridges, I erect memorials.
(Memory is non-current currency, Confederate money, and doesn't go for much these days.)
So here I stand, sad and free. I look over my shoulder at the last six years, all that I've won, all that I've lost. I want to write it all down and can't. I could try, but I wouldn't capture it right.
I'm starting to learn that some things need to be documented, and some need to fade. To live with your entire history weighing down upon you is to lose your ability to progress. It's madness.
You can't be afraid of the blank page future. You can't be afraid to step into the next chapter without some of the things you had in the last. It's okay to lose your pocketwatch along the way. You may find you don't need it later.
This is not to say that people are pocketwatches, or that relationships are like Bic pens, used then discarded. Not true. My lord, not true. But the Teacher of the Old Testament, in all his bittersweet wisdom, in all his circumspect melancholy, captured the essence of our journey from the first page to the last:
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace."
Sometimes you must give up. Sometimes you must throw away. Sometimes you must refrain. Sometimes you must tear down. For memory packrats like me, these are hard teachings. It takes me a while to learn them. It's taken me two years after graduating to "move away" from college.
For my finale, I have to crib a fragment from someone else. Karin knows what I'm saying:
Turn my world around
I have my father's hand
I have my mother's tongue
I look for redemption in everyone
I wanna wear your ring
I have a song to sing
It ain't over babe
In fact it's just begun
Turn my world around
Bring the whole thing down..."