Monday, July 23, 2012

Loss and taking chances

There was a Burger King right near my house. I used to go there almost every weekend with a group of my friends and play at the indoor playground, crawling through plastic tubes and falling down slides, playing hide and go seek in the little crevices and running around like crazy. I thought things would never change. I didn't want them to.

And they didn't...for a while anyway. I kept going to the playground in that Burger King for years and years, having an orange soda and french fries on the side while I weaseled into small spaces that weren't actually meant to played in.

Then, after a few years, that Burger King was no longer a Burger King. It became a furniture store, the drive-thru in the back becoming superfluous, the playground being removed, never to be seen again, and all of those memories gone in an instant, replaced by a furniture store.

I've never been good at dealing with change. Even though I'm the type of person who is always looking to make life more interesting, to find a way to create the perfect world for myself - by living in different places, trying different hobbies and jobs, meeting new people, etc. - I am also seriously afraid of uprooting my feeling of comfort with how things are. Sometimes it feels like they're meant to be that way and letting go becomes even more of a challenge.

On a small scale, this occurred to me today while I was shopping for cosmetics at the store. I went in looking for certain products that were tried and true and in the end had to walk out with alternatives that I couldn't be fully sure of. And while that was a chance involving minutia that shouldn't be incredibly life altering, it ended up being a metaphor for a struggle that a lot of people face, certainly not least of all myself.

Because so much of life is about accepting the inevitability of growing up and discovering new fascinating things, we must struggle through the most difficult crises that arise when we lose what we've assumed would be ours forever.

When I had finished at the store, my dad and I went over to visit my sister and my baby niece, Sydney. Before we did, though, we'd stopped by Toys R Us - for me it was a little adventure back into childhood and for my dad it was a chance to buy Sydney a new toy. Throughout these experiences, I couldn't stop thinking and talking about what a joy it would be to not have to let go of childhood.

It's strange because we spend so much of our young lives complaining about not having the benefits of adulthood. We can't order things off the television ("Must be 18 or older to call") and in my case, being young meant being prohibited from attending television tapings (16 years or older to sit in the audience of tame sitcom, please).

But at every step along the way, even when we've spent so much of our past lives complaining and hoping for the future, it's hard not to look back with feelings of love and loss.

I guess that's a bit strong when I'm talking about cosmetics. But when I think about all that I plan to do, all the life choices that I'll be making in the next few years, I have to consider all the emotional ramifications that accompany the decisions I make - even those that seem inevitable. Like moving to London, for instance.

How will I cope with leaving the country I grew up in? Or the family and friends I care so much about? How will my life be different? Is all of the trouble worth it to live in the one place in the world that has ever made me feel completely happy and at home?

Maybe part of the reason I bring this up is because I'm currently watching the finale of The Bachelorette, which is such a very "emotional" end to a turbulent whirlwind of a television show (I'm trying to be facetious, is it working?). As final decisions are made - I know I'm making this out to be a lot more serious than it is - I can't help contemplating the decisions I'll make as well.

So with the hope of not sounding like a valedictorian making their speech at a high school graduation, I'd like to call for everyone to take a second and think about the choices we make in our lives. Not just the large considerations like where we want to live when we grow up or who we want to marry or anything like that. But also on the little things - like what we choose to do with our free time, who we choose to spend that time with, what we buy and what we use and what we do under all circumstances.

Because everything we do changes our lives in some way, however small. When I start using a different scent of facial cleanser, it may sound silly, but it will affect how I feel about myself - maybe for the minute it takes to wash my face, maybe for as long as it takes for the company to discontinue the product I've just purchased. Who knows.

And really who knows how we'll feel about anything. What we can count on though, is that with contemplation and careful thought, we're closer to finding comfort in whatever we do. Even if that means giving up the past.

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