Seeing my friends begin to leave for college is almost as painful as watching Adam Carolla try to be funny. No, but seriously, it’s the end of a chapter in our lives. When school ended, I was so happy, I never considered this. It was like the year 2000 in the 90’s… it’s always there, but it’s so far away. It’s only now when people start leaving that it hits me. Not only that, but shit… we’re already halfway through this decade. Joking about Y2K is joking about something that happened five years ago.
I know there’s always winter break, etcetera, but I get the feeling that when we come back, we’ll be completely different people. These idyllic days are over. For some reason, I feel like I’m never seeing these people again. Or worse, they’ll only merit a fake, “Nice to see you again.”
When I moved back to California from Colorado, I learned a valuable lesson: You can never go back. I don’t know if any of my friends have learned that lesson yet, or if I’m over-reacting to that lesson.
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Last Saturday — Sunday really, it was 2:00 — the full weight of it began to be realized. That time I spent on the couch, watching 3 hours of television, was a ritual that was coming to an end. The shows will still be on, the same people will exist, the couch will still be there, night and day go on, but that little slice of time, turning off the TV after an all-out session, is gone forever. Waking up with a foggy mind and squinting eyes, stepping over the dog… that’s gone forever too.
Memories are meant to be fleeting. The good times I had with my friends, of course I’ll remember those. But those are in the past now, and they’ll remain in the past in the future. The little rituals are the things that will kill me.
Brushing my teeth in front of that piece of crap mirror… Seeing a light go out when I drive home after a day of fun that went well into the night… Having the opening of a door accompanied by the happy patter of my dog’s feet on the hardwood floor… Skipping that one step that creaks… Complaining every time my mom drives my car instead of hers… Wandering between the boredom-fighting trifecta of the computer, pool table, and piano… Sitting here, in this chair, typing in my weblog… These little rituals are what I will miss the most.
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So, maybe it’s not the fact that you or I will change. Maybe it’s not the fact that we won’t see each other for a long time. It’s our little rituals that will change. The things we don’t even notice that we’ll miss the most.
Playing in the band, getting the heat from Newton, after he told us what he had for lunch… Receiving a phone call, not knowing if the person on the other end has something big and crazy planned, or wants you to think up something to do… Random missions to find things like Nintendo adaptors… Whining about an assignment on AIM in the wee hours of the night instead of actually doing it…
Maybe you’ll still do some of these things, but never in quite the same way. It’s not that it will all disappear. It’s that you can recover slices of it, but it will all never fit together the same way it did before. That’s what I meant about never going back.
Maybe I’ll be in the same position. Opening the door after a late night with my high school friends, I’m greeted by my dog. I plop down on the couch and watch an hour of Adult Swim, reruns from last summer. After it’s over, I go up the stairs, making sure to skip the step that creaks, to brush my teeth in front of that piece of crap mirror. There might even be the same colored cup I always used. But something’s not quite right. It doesn’t feel the same. My room is a stranger’s room. The sheets are nicely tucked in… perhaps a habit I pick up in college. Everything’s a little bit dustier.
Do you understand how I feel now? I’m nostalgic for now. Only now is quickly becoming the past. Look, it’s already 2005. And just yesterday, I was wondering if the year 2000 would ever come. The cruel numbers keep moving ahead as the world changes around you. Maybe the 00’s are a sequel of the 90’s, like I often joke, but the sequel’s never the same as the original. Just as I can never go back to 1999, back to the old millenium, I will never be able to return to this chapter in my life.