Why the Past Is Something You Piece Together

There are a lot of idioms out there about the past and remembering. One of them is “taking a trip down memory lane.” But something I’ve realized so far on my travels, is that it is impossible to piece together a true representation of the past with just one memory lane.

Leaving New York was especially difficult for me because I had spent the last 6 and a half years there building friendships that felt like family, as well as my own relationship with the city. Now friendships continue on without me there: my roommates go to the beach on occasion, the upper west siders meet up for the movies, and I can’t be there to share those moments with them anymore. That’s alright with me, to be honest. I’ve am happy with my decision to travel and know that all that has happened is not lost, and those who matter most will keep in touch with me in other ways.

But piecing together the present that still exists in New York is another story. Learning about my former roommates’ living situations as they adjust to the new roommate who is now occupying my old room has been a feat that’s proven more difficult than expected. While one roommate discusses the emotions that ran high for the other when the furniture was being moved, the other roommate repeatedly states that things are “going fine.” Meanwhile, a visiting friend will inform me on some of the others’ feelings of being close at times and being left out at other times. Basically, everyone has something to say about someone else’s emotions, but nothing of their own.

From these fragments, I put together a story in my head of how things are carrying on without me there. Mostly, it seems to be going well which makes me happy. But there is something to be said about physical presence, even if it lacks involvement. Maybe I wasn’t out with my friends every night, and sure there were plenty of events I missed out on even while being in New York. But the mere fact of being in the same room at the end of the day, discussing work, cooking dinner, talking about last weekend or next weekend, is an irreplaceable way of connecting the pieces of the present.

There are some things that the telephone, even smartphones with texting, snapchat, selfies, social media, and video chat, simply can’t replace. We often talk about technology connecting us, especially globally. We scroll through Facebook photo albums and have a sense of what each other’s lives are like, but it is the small talk in between brunches and evenings out that makes “memory lane” more like a smooth road and less like a leap from stepping stone to stepping stone (some smaller and less supportive than others).

In the past few weeks, there have been plans formulated to have friends visit me here in Vermont, and I think that’s how it should be. Looking at my friends’ lives through a kaleidoscope of information makes it really tempting to hop on a bus down to New York for a weekend to witness their lives for myself (and be a part of them, of course). But I think this really is a test on my willingness to be where I am. I travelled to travel. I only have twelve weeks in Vermont and will most likely be working a 9 to 5 internship for eleven of them. That gives me 12 weekends to explore Burlington and the outer townships. I would like to take advantage of those while I’m here.

New York may move at a lightening speed pace, but my friends will always be waiting for me anytime I want to visit. Until then, I’ll be thanking my smartphone for the many memory lanes that connect me to my past in New York.

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