Mariah Proctor is finishing her junior year at BYU. This week all of her roommates are packing up and leaving, each to be married this summer.
I’m thinking today about the ocean. Whenever the classic ‘would you rather…’ conversation comes around to the question of living at the ocean or in the mountains, I say ‘mountains’ without a second thought. I love the crispness of mountain air, the sheer volume of foliage, the sound of acoustic guitar combining with the smell of campfire to overwhelmingly delight the senses. But today, I long for the ocean. I don’t want to be on the kind of beach where you see too much skin and find your own skin burned at day’s end. I’m talking about the kind of beach that’s maybe a little too cold. Some place where the beginnings of nautical tumult make the ocean sound like the swell of a wonderful symphony.
There’s something so compelling to me about the ocean. It has been mistress to many sailors, impoverished the rich and confounded the wise. Every time I look out at the waves I know that someone somewhere, probably half a world away, is doing the same and maybe even thinking about me. It’s like the whole world is wearing a blanket of blue water, and it’s strange but sort of familiar to be under the same blanket with billions of strangers. It’s different than the sky that we all live out our lives under, because it is tactile. You can feel what other people have felt, even soak in it. It is raging and inconsistent, but it has been consistently such for centuries, and that amazes me.
My life feels like the ocean today, that predictably unpredictable torment of a wave you’ve seen coming and are still unprepared for. Walking around my house last night, I had to squeeze past boxes and mumble ‘excuse me’s’ to loaders and un-loaders. This morning, it’s all gone. Another roommate has moved out, and there was no climactic last meal, just a slow trickle of her possessions and eventually her presence from the house. She’s the third of the group to go. It feels so strange because I am missing their weddings, and I will come back in August and everyone’s lives will have transformed, and I won’t have been there to see it.
We knew that this little haven that we’d created in this house wouldn’t last. Particularly when five people got engaged right in a row, we knew that our time here, together this way would be but a brief moment. I knew, but I still feel little pieces of myself breaking off with each departure.
Sometime in the fall, we pushed two couches together (our own little love nest) and all 13 of us (we tenants and the tenants of our hearts) squeezed into that tiny area and just sat around and talked. We didn’t really talk about anything in particular, just whatever came to our minds, but it was a unique moment that remains suspended and separate from the rushing river of my life’s memory, because we never got together like that again. It wasn’t in anticipation of everyone preparing to go their own ways and never have the chance to be together like that again. It was just a spontaneous evening’s entertainments that we didn’t know we’d never have the chance to recapture.
I’m not trying to get all doom and gloom on everybody. Most of us are going to continue to live in the same town, but it doesn’t matter, I know how this ends. I know that the times we have, and the circumstances we rejoice in, only remain with us for a short season, and then they are gone.
I went to Scotland with a bunch of friends when I was seventeen (I sometimes muse that my life didn’t begin until that summer), and we still joke whenever we get together about how we need to go back and meet up at the heart of Edinburgh and see those sights and hear that music again. I am animated in my enthusiasm for the plan, but I know in my heart, that though Edinburgh is an incredible destination, we are yearning for the time, not the place, and taking a flight cross the pond would not bring us back there.
All this, the fleeting nature of time which thing I was already well acquainted with, but the reminder of which still managed to jar me, is enough to make you never want to embark on a new experience again. I say this as I prepare to go abroad with strangers, who will become family, to a foreign city that will become another home. How emotionally exhausting to be these creatures that wander the earth, refusing to remain isolated and eagerly falling in love with people and places, all sorts.
I try to live life with no regrets (I can’t necessarily attest to my success in that endeavor) and to face only forward as I move only forward. I am grateful for the person that I’ve become and for how much more progressing there is waiting and ready for me. I’ve fundamentally changed since my adolescence. That is generally a good thing, but there is an added anxiety to life now that I’ve learned so clearly that by choosing certain things, I un-choose others.
In high school, every thought was always future bound, because of my anticipation of that great beyond which was post-high school living. Now I’m there and no longer living under the delusion that life changes just because your age did. Every change you want, you have to affect, and though that is wonderfully empowering, it also adds pressure to every choice as time barrels onward, and even should you wish it, there’s no chance to look back.
Many great men have penned their thoughts on the nature of time and how it races terrifyingly onward no matter what one should wish or do, but time is as it has always been. It isn’t the one racing forward, I am. Time is the same now as it was those carefree, summer days in Scotland or on prom night. It ticks by at exactly the rate it always does, but I sit here, changing by the hour with each new thought stretching and molding my brain, so that it can never return to its original shape. I make friends, and they move along with their lives, and I move along with mine and the person I was, I am no longer. Though the waves of time swell and overwhelm and disappoint they are as they are, while I am continually moving and clamoring and yearning and racing on. Though it hurts to be the one to leave each version of myself behind, a part of me glories in the excitement of an introduction to a new and improved me.