A friend of mine recently updated his facebook status by saying he is about to leave Asia and go to South America, where a new chapter is awaiting.
A new chapter in life? A new chapter of his travels? I’ll be honest with you – I simply forgot his exact words and I’m too lazy to be going through his facebook history for half an hour. But no matter how he phrased it, it kept me thinking:
What chapters does my life consist of? And…are they chapters, really?
It wasn’t his words that sparked such inner questioning; I had reflected on my own tendency to systemise and organise my experience into imaginary units of sorts long before. Yet since in this chapter of my life I am blogging, I have a chance and an excuse to systemise my thoughts on precisely that.
There was the highschool unit with pre-IB and IB sub-units. There were my first years of college. There were my inter-college summers at home in Lithuania and in Ireland with my sister. There was my fun study abroad time in Spain followed by one of the most exciting summers filled with travelling and meeting people who, as I like to describe it, introduced me to some nicely alternative approaches to life. There was my comeback to the States and now it’s Thailand. Purely geographical division of my life? One could say that.
Every chapter had an interesting “this is how life is, I can’t remember my life before” feeling. Two years ago it seemed absolutely normal for me to go out with my friends on a Wednesday night, visit a couple of our favourite indie rock places, hear Spanish around and put some effort to sound less like an idiot while trying to speak Spanish in my classes the next day. The more incredibly beautiful cathedrals I saw, the less impressed I was. And the more spoilt.
A year ago it was all but unusual to be researching for three papers at once while trying not to sleep through my German classes (a combination of early morning classes and a pass-fail system was functioning worse and worse as the semester progressed) and only half a year ago I couldn’t even imagine my life after college.
You know what seems natural now? Not to wear socks, see people travelling in the back of pick-up trucks, hitchhiking to save $1.5, and see kids and adults smile and wave to me while passing some astonishingly beautiful rural areas.
You see, I like to organise things, yet I must admit it simply doesn’t work. I will break the most basic writing style rule here – my system is systematically flawed!
There are no chapters because they aren’t truly finished. Neither can they be dissected and analysed on their own properly. How useful is analysing single threads of a cloth? You can dissect them if you want to see what the cloth is made of, but the cloth remains the same if you think about or not. And no single thread can mean more than the cloth itself. Just like no single prolonged metaphor and explain well what I really mean.
Besides, even the way I look at those imaginary chapters of my life changes: ones gain more significance while others fade away so much that my mind almost never comes back to what I was doing then; ones make me laugh at what I was thinking (oh yes, and wearing!) and that time and others turn to be rather crucial for how I see myself now. Yet even this evaluation of an evaluation might change in the future.
Not only the way I look at those periods (to come back to my metaphor – those threads) change. I have got something extremely valuable from all of them which is always with me, albeit not geographically.
That is my friends. All of you.
I may not be in Gettysburg, Salamanca, at home, in Varna, somewhere in Laos or any other lovely place where I have had an amazing time. The good thing is, as you know already, that true friendships aren’t affected by geography (…just like a huge portion of the world’s population, sadly).
Although after some years of having read it, I still recall the time concept that Alan Moore presented in ‘Watchmen.’ For Doctor Manhattan time is more of a space-like dimension: he can come back to whatever instance, just like a dedicated reader flips pages back to reread a previous chapter of a book.
Despite the fact that I have just trashed my own “life has chapters” claim, I am truly fascinated by Moore’s concept and, leaving the chapters parallel behind, I do see one thing in common here:
Although one reads books chapter by chapter, no chapter is truly gone after being read: everything is still there, in the same book. You turn the pages and you’re there – in Marrakesh, Boston, Toronto, San Sebastián – again.
Isn’t it comforting: precisely because it was, it always will be.
The nostalgia that I feel sometimes is definitely of a good kind. Because it is nostalgia for something that will never disappear.