When One Door Closes

23rd Street

Looking forward into the perpetuity of the future.

A few months ago, my dad attempted to solve my laptop problems by reformatting the harddrive, installing a 500 GB behemoth to replace the barely adequate 160 GB native. Though the increased space seems to have led to a slight improvement in speed, I lost all of my custom settings, including those for my photographs and music playlists. I lost some photo editing software that I’ve lazily attempted to replace. I lost a ton of electro-clutter, but with it much of my age-old organizational schemes as well.

Considering my computer is an extension of my being, changing the composition of my laptop forced me to reconsider my own ideas of what is “necessary.” I realized my computer only really needed Spotify, Chrome, and Word (though alternatives have been used on occasion, like iTunes when Spotify commercials seem homocide-inducing, or TextEdit when writers send me articles through indecipherable applications). Using Trello as an online sticky note board helped organize all the windows I had running on various browsers, minimizing the strain on my computer and hyperdriving me into a level of productivity that has made this last semester faster than I admittedly would like.

But yesterday, when I uploaded 55 GB of photographs, chronicling the past eight years of my life through 20,000 images, I realized how much that clutter helped shape my life.  My life has been so full. So many things have changed: I’ve experienced the rise and fall of beautiful friendships, the passion and heartbreak of relationships gone awry, the hundreds of activities I wholeheartedly embraced then discarded, the several countries and cities I’ve traveled with friends, family, and alone, and the countless – sometimes hilarious, sometimes saddening – personality and appearance shifts that have had significant impacts on my friends and myself. [The haircuts probably stand out the most, if I’m being honest.]

Just looking at those photos reminded me of who I was, how I presented myself, even what I thought was interesting through what I framed and chose to digitally capture. I saw myself grow as a result of all of the things that happened around me, and, more recently, all of the things I’ve been lucky enough to introduce others to. Not everything was aesthetically pleasing, nor did I document some of the most exciting or inspirational moments. But what matters is that I’m the lens that witnessed all of those things, and I’m still that prism, that carbon turned to diamond, made evermore multifaceted and sparkling by everything that has bruised, broken, and smoothed me out again.

Before I could even imagine that my current two-job-working-nineteen-unit-taking-dating-socializing-sleeping-eating lifestyle was manageable, I had to juggle a thousand things at once for multiple years. I haven’t taken more than a month of an academic break since the beginning of my sophomore year of college, and even the immediate prior summer was spent volunteering in India and trying to recenter my emotional balance after one of the most traumatic – but fundamentally important – situations I’ve yet encountered. Maybe it was because of that constant barrage that I dealt with my mom’s cancer as well as I did, but then again, it might have been that my ability to multitask comes genetically from my mom’s personal strength and mindfulness.

The concept of beginnings and endings has resonated particularly strongly recently. As I clean out my childhood room, prepare to leave my beloved Oakland apartment, and look forward to my imminent graduation from the institution that has shaped me so uniquely into the person I’m proud to be today, I brace myself for the loss of routine and familiarity. But through viewing these photos – and being forced to upgrade to Facebook’s Timeline – I’m reminded that change has always been a part of my life, and this upcoming series of changes are necessary for me to ascend to the next level of self-realization. In traveling the world for a year, I’m undoubtedly going to miss the mundane and lose loved ones, possessions, and that gripping control that as of now marks my personality. But in exchange, I’m going to gain so many new world-views, stories, and first times, not to mention new loved ones, possessions, and a readjusted sense of control that is personally centered as opposed to geographically.

Does that mean I shouldn’t travel? No. If anything, it means I should be comforted by the realization that what happens happens. Perspective and hindsight reveal that there are never truly “good” and “bad” situations; there’s merely life, and our choices to flow with or against it.

I once thought of traveling as starting over, becoming a new person disguised by my anonymity and capable of blending into any culture or set of circumstances. I no longer think that; the person who can do that is weak, searching for others to dress them up and fill them with a personality. Traveling isn’t a way of starting over – it’s a way of learning about the world and understanding how to create a harmony between you and your surroundings, ever adjusting to come closer to that coveted perfect balance. Yes, there are beginnings and endings. But what I’m realizing now is that nothing ever truly begins or ends, if you consider yourself a composite of your experiences. To quote Regina Spektor from “On the Radio”:

This is how it works:
You’re young until you’re not.
You love until you don’t.
You try until you can’t.
You laugh until you cry.
You cry until you laugh.
And everyone must breathe,
Until their dying breath.

No, this is how it works:
You peer inside yourself.
You take the things you like,
And try to love the things you took.
And then you take that love you made,
And stick it into some,
Someone else’s heart,
Pumping someone else’s blood,
And walking arm in arm,
You hope it don’t get harmed,
But even if it does,
You’ll just do it all again.

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