Last week it occurred to me that virtually all of my friends are, RIGHT NOW, in the midst of major life changes: some have finally finished school and are starting new careers; others are going back to school after having worked for a decade; some have just had their first baby; others are getting married or divorced.
Initially, this just seemed like more of the same. Since graduating from college, many of us have made some kind of change on a near-yearly basis--switching apartments, cities, employers, or boyfriends in a blinding blur. (So many of my friends have moved so many times that I have to hunt to find anything in my address book--half the entries are scratched out and the rest are written in any old place, under any old letter.)
But these, I think, are truly big changes, and ones that will shape at least the next few years of our lives. But. . . shape them how, exactly?
I've been complaining a lot, to a lot of people, about not knowing what the narrative of my life is supposed to be, and in one of those conversations HK reminded me that I used to go around offering, from Kierkegaard, the observation "life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward."
(And okay, that's a pretty shameful revelation--but if you think there's nothing more annoying than a 20-year-old who goes around saying, "as Kierkegaard says. . ." you'd be wrong: at one of HK's law firm interviews, when asked about the unusual series of jobs she'd held since college and what they added up to, she commented, vaguely, that one of her friends used to say [the above quotation]. Her interviewer replied, "Actually, that's Kierkegaard. I mean, your friend didn't just make that up.")
And what strikes me about that induced memory isn't the total profundity of that quotation, but the fact that. . . well. . . I guess I've always felt this way. Back when I kept a journal, I had this experience with some regularity. I'd flip through an older volume, start reading, and discover, hey! That thing in my current life and those deep self-realizations it was provoking? Uh, I'd already had them. Like, five years earlier.
As humbling as these moments are, especially when they involve having made the same fucking mistakes or operating under the same flawed assumptions, there's also something comforting about them. I have changed, in quite a lot of ways, so there's a pleasure--even if it's a rueful one--in signs of continuity.
And so now, thinking about the Big Changes that many of my friends are experiencing, I'm resisting the urge to say--whether in sorrow or in delight--"Things are totally different! Life will never be the same!" Because every single time I've ever thought that, I've been wrong. And maybe it simply is that we remain mostly the same people and tend to persist in the same behaviors, but it's hard not to feel that there are larger narrative patterns at work when doors that appeared closed suddenly open; people disappear only to reappear; and answers arrive to questions we weren't aware we had asked.
Still. One part of my past self that doesn't need to reappear? The quoting philosophers part. The pretentiousness there's probably no help for.