In recent days, and particularly after having watched Yi Yi, I have thought about the truism written in the above title. A truism that is perhaps one of the hardest truisms for men and women to learn, and certainly one of the hardest and harshest truisms that I’ve had to learn.
I’ve known, for a long time, that the past cannot be the present, but I often wished that it were. What I didn’t realize is that not only can that never be, but that never should be. I’m not saying that we don’t get second chances in life, but there comes a point where a decision will lead you down a road, and you can’t go back to the fork and take the other path. And even when we are given second chances, they are really first chances, for the circumstances around the choice that we didn’t make the first time have changed.
In middle school and high school, I often wished that I was still friends with two of my best friends from elementary school: Matt and Steve. But it was not to be. They had changed; I had changed in different ways. And then when I graduated from high school and went to college, many of my high school friends vanished from view. Thanks to Facebook, I am now in contact with many of them again, but even there, how many of them do I regularly talk to? And how many of those friendships have gone through transformations, either on my end or theirs, or both?
This also applies to places. When I went back to Harrisonburg to try and live and work near the college that I graduated from three years earlier, I was doomed to fail, because I had remembered the town as a student, and had been there with other students. When I went there again, I arrived in the summer, when most of the college kids were home, and I was left with the harsh reality that Harrisonburg was nothing without JMU, and JMU was now a memory. That is why, though I would like to revisit London some day, I know I can’t copy the experience of my semester abroad there. If I tried, I would only remember an old memory and what was, rather than make a new memory out of what is.
But, of course, the big experience that I will never repeat, can never repeat, anywhere in the world, is the experience I had in Japan. A three year experience with a cast of characters and situations that I could never hope to realign. And so, of all of the places I wish to revisit, Japan is the one that I worry about the most, for it is the place where I am in the most danger of falling into the clutches of the past, instead of forming new memories with my friends there. It is healthy to remember what has gone on before, but it is not healthy to wallow in memories. Wallowing in memories prevents new ones from forming.
That is one reason I came to Seattle. I could not escape the spectre of Japan in Connecticut, because nothing was there to remind me of my trip, and so I missed all aspects of it. Here, I hope to slowly wean myself off of my Japanese adventure, while making new memories and connections associated with Japan, via the Japanese Meetup Group that I joined soon after arriving here.
Of course, the only foolproof way of preventing myself from wallowing in old memories is to create new ones. Sitting in my room all day, typing away on a computer screen, doesn’t help (well, okay, it helps a little if I’m typing TO someone, but it’s a poor substitute for talking to someone face-to-face). I must be active, which is why getting a job as a barista, though part-time and not high paying (though with great benefits), has helped with my well-being tremendously. Also, I have some events planned this weekend and later in the month, in order to get me out of the house in a non-work setting. Otherwise, how can I form an opinion about a city that I never get to explore, whose citizens I never meet, whose customs I never try, whose food I never eat, whose nightlife I never sample (I’m talking karaoke, folks :-))?
Anyway, these are my thoughts. I turn thirty-one later this month, so now is a good time to take stock of where I am, and where I still must go.