Didn’t Joni warn us that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” See, when I hear it in my head it’s Janet Jackson’s version and you can catch Q-Tip reply “Joni Mitchell never lies.” And she doesn’t. But I’ve always thought that nostalgia was probably the least productive thing that you can choose to wallow in. What is more futile than fighting change? I’d rather not struggle against the wave, I’d like for it to take me to shore.
I’ve never been afraid of letting go but then again maybe it’s because I’m an immigrant. It’s like I got a lifetime’s worth of saying goodbye done and over with when I was 6 years old, when I left my loud, affectionate, beautiful extended family. When it broke a part of me. I’ve shed enough tears in all the visits since then and I’m sick and tired of it. Now I keep my goodbyes short and sweet, I get on with things and just plan on buying some plane tickets. What is it with you Burma? You keep drawing me back in. Even if I wanted you to remain, you too have changed, with all of your tall buildings and politics.
The best thing that transformation offers us is that life continues, even after people have left us, even after you have moved on, even after you make new meanings. All of my friends are moving away and so are we. We were once sheltered by the university campus, classrooms, and nights out. Then we got jobs or went to grad school, slowly accumulating more duties and responsibilities. Now many of us are packing up those exact homes in the city that protected us to start anew. It’s hard for me to define the way I’m feeling but grief is definitely part of it. Perhaps it’s because we’re older and we’re not approaching this point of transition as we did former ones. After high school you promise that you’ll keep in touch and remain friends. After university you say the same things but actually mean it and try your best. Now, I know, with slight regret that it’s going to be harder and harder to maintain these bonds. Time, distance and busy lives will start to diminish the ties, but however frayed these friendships become I know that a part of them remain. No, they won’t be the same but a different version does not undermine the love at its core. I’m not going to let them dissipate because I’m also mature enough to know that profound connections are not that easy to form. I’m not twenty and feeling like everyone will be my best friend. I have my best friends already. They’re my people. We’ll just see each other when we see each other.
I’m rather thankful for Joni’s words and they don’t make me sad. They shake me up to not take a single thing for granted.