At the most recent meditation for my university’s Buddhist fraternity, Delta Beta Tau, the discussion centered around the idea of impermanence. Though you can argue what it means a hundred different ways, I had interpreted it as the coming and going of our lives. Nothing is forever no matter how earnestly we beg it to be. Time wipes everything away.
Some people get to grow up in the same home they learned to walk in. I think it’s safe to say I’ve lived in more houses than the average kid — seven by the time I was 19. With two different elementary schools, two different middle schools, and two different high schools under my belt, impermanence hit close to home. Don’t get me wrong; I know I’m lucky to have a loving family, food on my plate and a bed to sleep in, but sometimes moving around got tough.
As a child, I was more resilient. The first couple of moves didn’t affect me much because being a kid meant everyone was your friend. The world is still new and exciting, and we invited change in happily, always ready to adapt to whatever the world threw at us.
Once I entered adolescence, however, I learned to abhor being the new kid.
I knew the routine like the back of my hand: the first-day stares, the following weeks of awkward conversations, and, of course, the never-ending months of wondering if I ever made a true friend. If there’s one thing that moving taught me, it’s that having friendly classmates does not mean you have friends. Being able to talk and joke during class worked just fine, but once I stepped off campus for the day, the loneliness settled in.
Then, before I knew it, I’d have to pick up and leave all over again. That was the hardest part about all those moves. I became so accustomed to leaving people behind that I began to question whether I should’ve tried to make friends at all.
But moving, unfortunately, is an inevitable part of life, and change will continue to find all of us.
Even in college, where I had hoped to find some sense of peace, has small moments of impermanence. The dorm hall I live in today will no longer be my home next year, and the apartment I’ll soon share with friends will be a memory later on. My dorm hall floor family, whether I talked to these people at all, are still my family in some way.
Their faces are familiar and their voices are comforting simply because I’m used to them. Months ago, back when I first moved to college, I swore the incessant elevator dings and loud voices would never be home, but sure enough, they became my safe haven.
A friend once told me that we see the past through rose-tinted glasses. In other words, when we’re feeling nostalgic, at least for the most part, we try to remember only the good feelings of memories. I’ll forget how alone I felt those first few weeks, and I’ll forget about the long, tear-filled nights locked away in my dorm. I’ll forget the frustration and the anxiety that I faced each day, and the troubles of the past will no longer hurt me in the present.
But I won’t forget the people and the moments I fell in love with. I don’t mean love in a romantic sense, either. I mean the small snippets of people’s lives when you see them wear their that one sweater again or ruffle their hair in frustration as they write whatever godforsaken essay at 2:30 a.m. — the moments when they appear so raw and genuine that it both breaks and fills up my heart.
I’ll remember last-minute cram sessions with friends, the lunch-dates, the power-naps on the study room floor. I’ll remember being sick away from home for the first time, and how my friends took care of me without hesitation. I’ll remember driving back to campus one night, flying down the highway in the dark, as we belt along to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” like we were the last people on Earth.
I’ll remember a lot of things that will one day only ever be memories.
Perhaps bouncing around so much has a silver lining: I remember the small moments in life with such poignant clarity that I even surprise myself. Maybe I just want to hold on to the good-feelings and surround myself with positivity.
Impermanence is permanent, so I’m just trying to make the best of things while I can.