We all have those pretty forks in the road. The hidden ugliness of them is that you don’t get to know if you’re on the right path until you’ve traveled too far to turn around.
Life isn’t fond of second chances…or is it?
Maybe you gain clarity with age so that when you turn eighty, you don’t look back with the same feelings of regret you had at forty? Regret may be one of the heaviest things to carry around with you. That certainly has been my experience, and I’m sure it’s somewhere buried in you too.
As a kid, my parents divorced and although my dad stayed in my hometown, even living in the same duplex for longer than I ever lived anywhere else, I lived with my mom and sister. We moved a lot and I guess I was blessed in that I always loved meeting new people.
There’s no way to know if I came by that naturally, or if it was seemingly always being the new kid at school that didn’t give me a choice. I moved away from my hometown about halfway through Kindergarten, twice in fourth grade when I briefly moved back to my friends I originally had in Kindergarten, then again, twice, in fifth grade.
Once I finally landed back in my hometown, the latter part of fifth grade, everything had changed without me. This was the age when the cliques were assigned.
I watched as the kids around me slowly rose up to take their popular positions, or got put on the sidelines where they would remain until the day we all graduated from high school.
Missing out on the assigning of groups may have been the beginning of everything that was to follow.
We tend to think being on the outside looking in is a tormented place to be. There were plenty of days I would have agreed with that. However, it’s exactly what made me live. I never had that safe group of girls to be by my side everywhere I went. And you know what? As much as I wished for that at the time, it gave me the superpower of doing things on my own.
That set me on the path of all the people I’d meet.
Something I didn’t understand until a couple of years ago, was that because I couldn’t hold onto people–because I couldn’t make them stay–I held onto things as a way to keep them in scrapbooks and boxes.
Concert tickets and wristbands, photographs (oh, the power of photographs), anything that they gave me, or that would remind me of them, when one of us inevitably left.
Over the years, the photo boxes filled up. A torn piece of paper with a phone number and a name written on it that turned into one of my greatest life adventures, letters that had been written to cheer me up when I’d had a bad day, even a mean letter that was mailed to me by an ex-boyfriend so I could go back and read it when he inevitably contacted me again to apologize (he did and I’m so glad I saved that letter because I know me and I would have said, “It’s ok.”), a corsage from my senior year homecoming dance (the only high school dance that didn’t end with my date leaving with someone else), signed drumsticks, a note on the back of a receipt from the McDonald’s next to my favorite music venue in Tallahassee, FL, and more photographs than my crappy jobs could cover the cost of the film and developing, yet somehow, did.
While I was living these moments, I could already feel in my bones that they were wonderful and I made sure I stayed wide-eyed to soak them all in. But no matter how many things I collected in my boxes in order to cling to moments I knew were fleeting, I could never make them last even one second longer than they were meant.
It took me growing older, sitting around, sifting through the boxes, for it to all make sense.
I held onto things because I somehow already had the knowledge that people are temporary. They are nothing but seasons, and none of us can keep the leaves from falling off the trees.
Once the anger or sadness hits you, when yet another season ends, you can find yourself throwing away pieces of the contents of your boxes. You think that may help you let go or move on. It doesn’t really work that way though. You can actually add to your regret by doing so. Ask me how I feel about that scrap of paper I can never get back.
As with most things in my life, I have a song for this feeling. If you’ve been reading along with me here, you may have guessed the song is by Noah Kahan. It’s called “Stick Season” and while I was thinking about this, I could hear the lyrics:
And I’ll dream each night of some version of you
That I might not have, but I did not lose
Now you’re tire tracks and one pair of shoes
And I’m split in half, but that’ll have to do
Nevertheless, people leave. You have to let them go. That may be one of the saddest realizations we have to come to terms with. But just know that it’s okay to keep your scraps of memories.