August 15, 2014

Summer Musings: Fleeting finales

Meeting for the first time friends we may never see again forces us into the present.

There is a feeling of finality at every high school graduation. That after stepping off the stage with our diplomas, it will be the last time that we will see many of the people we used to pass daily as we walked through the hallway; that we will never see many of our teachers again; that perhaps we’ll never even see our school again. As my first year of college came to a close, I had a similar feeling, if lesser in degree.

I was worried that, after having such an important year of my life at school, the arrival of summer and the sudden break in contact with many of those people with whom I had grown so close over the past school year meant the end of a long period of personal and intellectual development. When friends would tell me they were excited for summer, I would understand the excitement, but would never agree. I was thriving in this environment, and the prospect of leaving it worried me.

But this summer proved entirely different. I have been fortunate enough to visit friends from college, traveling to the East Coast for my internship. And I’ve also met dozens of new people and seen tons of new places—the catch is, all of them only for a short, fleeting moment. You meet someone for a day or two, and the next week they are gone, back to their own lives, their own routine. And, even more so than with friends in college, you don’t know when you’ll see them again. But you know that in that moment you shared something special, something that you’ll hold onto, and that maybe in the future you’ll reconnect again.

I was sitting in a diner in Georgetown talking with a friend (whom I had met only recently, and whom I now probably won’t see for over a year) about something similar. He refuses to start a Facebook account, because for him, even though it’s interesting to know what your friends are doing across the country, it truly has no impact on you. “Back in the day” we would have to pick up the phone to speak with our friends, or write them a letter, or even wait until we could meet in person. He and I talked about how this idea that you have to be in constant contact and constantly aware of someone’s activities to maintain a true friendship, or to ensure that you will still be on good terms with that person, is a new concept. So I’ve grown to find the beauty in the fleetingness of it all, to know that perhaps I won’t see something or someone again, to know that each moment must be savored for how it is.

Yet seeing so many different places and meeting so many new people in such a short period of time this summer has made it hard to digest each individual experience, and what normally would stick out in my mind no longer does: The sheer preponderance of experiences means no one moment sticks out in my memory. Feeling that something is final is disconcerting because it feels like something is left unresolved. So when you keep having one final experience after another you’re left with a lot of unresolved endings. Or, really, no endings but no continued contact or story in terms of your relationships with friends. One moment that I enjoyed thoroughly may not even be at the forefront of my mind when I look back on everything in totality.

And for that reason I sort of wish I had not written this. I haven’t had time to actually think about everything that I have experienced, to reflect and find something worth writing about. But maybe that’s the point—maybe I shouldn’t give myself time to think about it. Maybe if I keep going, if I don’t search for some sort of finality or conclusion to everything, things will work themselves out. Maybe looking back on things is overrated.

Andrew Young is a second-year in the College majoring in English. Summer Musings is a Viewpoints blog that publishes on Tuesdays and Fridays through September 26.