“We live in time- it holds us and molds us- but I never felt I understood it very well. And I’m not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing – until the eventual point when it really does go missing never to return” – Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
Applying to Georgetown, I compared my life to a kaleidoscope. Be it sleep deprivation or an actual stroke of brilliance, I explained how my life was gradually changing and I was working to keep up, figuring out how each piece fit into the narrative of the moment. Naïve as I was, I wrote as though I was the one slowly turning the kaleidoscope–as though I was the one in control.
This fact–lost in the hundreds of applications and college brochures–became irrelevant, only to resurface this past spring when writing a paper about Proust’s Combray for a French class, which references kaleidoscopes as the narrative searches for an essence of truth. At one point in the book, the narrator describes how his grandmother constantly disrupts the manicured garden, creating a cycle of work for the gardener. Essentially (as I argued in my paper), the grandmother becomes the turning force of the kaleidoscope, scattering everything into a new image.
And then, about a month ago, I found out that I was accepted into the Peace Corps, and this metaphor once again reemerged. Life was not slowly turning; it had abruptly shifted, jolting me out of one future path into another. More importantly, I had little say in the speed of its rotations; grandmother had left the garden and I had little choice but to keep up with her disruptions.
All of this rambling brings me to this: How to say goodbye for two years?
Suddenly I had three days left in DC. It was not enough time, but I suppose there never is enough time. After what felt like a casual hour or two to chat, each goodbye ended with the sudden sprint of time racing towards the end.
And then time slowed.
Back in Idaho, with a month until departure, I fell into a routine of biking, running, walking and eating copious amounts of Mexican food. I became reacquainted with my childhood home. I remembered that people here are friendly and that wave from a guy in his truck was probably not sexual harassment, just an Idahoan courtesy. I remembered that running through a sprinkler actually feels amazing in a dry climate and that you could smell a rainstorm coming from miles away.
I also had a chance to return to Sun Valley in the summer, something that I had not been able to do since the summer before my junior year. Shoutout to my new best friend Lenny for reminding me that not only will people in Idaho stop to chat with you on a hiking trail, but also will walk up to you, sit down with you and chat your ear off for an hour. Also to Dominic, the nine year-old who asked me why I wasn’t married and if I could drive. (Answers: Um…hadn’t occurred to me yet? and Yes. In fact, I’ve been driving since you’ve been in diapers. I’m hella old, bruh.)
(Also, may or may not have stocked up on the Cabin Porn™. This is for all the pretty people who asked me what there was to do in Idaho.)
As the smattering of goodbyes start to dwindle, I have slowly realized I am ready to go.
Although I know will miss everyone and I know I will miss the hundreds of the important events happening in their lives in the next couple years–the biggest pull to stay stateside–in the words of a sage friend, “there’s always going to be something that you miss.”
I cannot always be there for everyone. More importantly, I cannot put off living my own life in order to watch others live theirs.
With this realization, I pack my bags: the only physical sense of closure I’ll find, as I neatly fit (read: stuff) everything into two international regulation-sized bags and a backpack.
As for the people? Thats far less easy and much less organized. People don’t stay where you leave them–they grow, they move, they change–and all you can do is enjoy the image before it turns.
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
― Jack Kerouac,