Manhattan Island as seen from the harbor

City of Possibilities

Last week I went to New York City to meet an old, old friend. Old as in someone I’ve known for 20 years, and old as in someone who has passed the half-century mark. I see this friend once, sometimes twice a year, and when I do, we pick up the conversation as though we’d just seen each other last Tuesday. I come away from our time together refreshed, reminded of who I used to be 20 some years ago: that different energy I used to live in, and which was in me then. I miss it sometimes: those sharp edges, the dreaminess of poetry, the excitement of not knowing what’s coming next. When you have years of life ahead of you, your perspective is different from living those years and the daily experiences of the life you passed through. Nostalgia can be sweet but it can also be deadly. Paying too much attention to where you’ve been takes away from seeing what you are living now. According to studies, once you’ve experienced something, your mind notes it and stores it somewhere in your head. Then, when you find yourself in a similar situation, your mind pulls out the old memory and overlays it over the new experience. That is one of the challenges of changing how you think about things – you’re already biased in one direction or another. The trick is to see through that memory into where you actually are. This is why, very often, you don’t notice your children growing until you buy them school clothes in autumn.

So I meet with my friend and notice, this time, that he has more gray hair, has to wear his glasses more often, and is a little heavier. He still carries his vibrant energy, though, and in our talking, I feel myself reaching down into my memories for those aspects of myself he calls forth. Re-membering. Later, on the bus ride home, those aspects still spread out on my surface, I mine them for the riches they hold, to bring them back into my now life, to live more fully in my present.


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