As I gaze out of the small window of my airplane, making the journey from the big city back to my little suburbia, I'm struck with a wave of nostalgia. I'm 17 years old, and I live in a well-off southern town in Georgia, where most residents are exposed to nothing beyond middle-class comfort, nice cars, above-average education and weekend trips to Lake Windward or Avalon. It's something that's familiar to me, something that I've set as the norm in my life even though it is hardly the norm in other places. But it's all I've ever known, and it's something that I've grown accustomed to. That, however, is something that will change in a matter of less than a year.
Because I'm 17 years old, and I'm still young, but I'm about to leave this place I've called home for years behind. Once high school ends and college comes knocking on the door of life, my childhood home will be exactly that — a childhood home. It's exhilarating and confusing, but it's happening sooner than I could have imagined.
Somehow, flying back home after spending a week in a city different from my own, it feels like I've aged. I envision myself in the exact position I am currently in, except eight years into the future. The scene shifts and I am 25 years old now, flying to Georgia to see my family and friends for the holiday season. I am comforted by the fact that I will soon be back in my little corner of the world that gave me a home when I needed it most. Soon, I'll be able to spend quality time with my family that I took entirely for granted when I was younger. I'll be able to see the friends I spent my teen years with and catch up with their lives, learn their stories, wish them the best for their futures.
And that is the part that tugs at my heart the most. Because our futures may not include each other in them, but our pasts did. And that's all that matters, in the end. Each of us has created a little piece of each other's lives, inserted ourselves into memories that will last for the years to come. We have crossed paths, given each other companionship for a little while, and set off in our own ways, into our own roads. It's bittersweet, but it's the truth.
And even though I'm only 17, and I couldn't possibly know how it feels to leave everything behind yet, I'll be 18 soon, then 20, then 25 and 30 and more. I'm moving on from my childhood. Maybe the most important part of growing up is knowing that even if you don't get to experience the memories you have cherished in the past ever again, they still exist in your mind.
Write these memories down, take pictures, tell stories. Never let them die.