As I write this, Jill and I are cutting across the frigid, barren midwest part of the country in search of higher ground (consider that a reference to geographical features as well as a legalized marijuana joke).
After ten days in Chicagoland it came time for us to leave family, pizza, and disappointing Chicago Bears football (surprise, surprise, people) behind in order to take a deeper breath, albeit in a place with a bit less oxygen. As I wrote in my last blog post, where we just left is no longer home, but where we are headed is starting to feel more like it all the time, so I can’t get back there soon enough.
Now, this trip back to where I’m from turned out to be quite different than others past. I went to Chicago as a fiancé - which is far, far away from what I was when I arrived in Chicago last December. When you visit a place you’re from with someone you’re with, there tends to be a lot of focus on past versions of yourself. Both sets of parents shared stories about younger Andrew and younger Jill - often with pictures or videos to accompany. You tend to eat places you always liked eating, and each meal has a story that starts with “we used to go here when…” or “I used to eat this after…” or “that place has great…”.
Then you share stories about other places as you drive by them like “I went there once when I broke my arm…” or “that’s where I played soccer…” or, often, “I used to drink there.” Sometimes you introduce your significant other (bravely) to friends you’ve left behind. This is when you have to listen to said friends tell stories about you while you cringe hoping they leave “that one part” out. They don’t.
After many of these scenarios, you find yourself or someone else saying “wow, time flies.” I prefer “…the years were short, but the days were long”. That phrase may have other origins, but for me it's from the Shins song Pink Bullets, and it's perfect. It’s quite easy to look back on the years past as if they’ve whipped by, only to forget what a battle it often was to get through the days that make up those years.
This idea was startlingly apparent to me a few times during the trip. One of my best friends Corey shared one of those incriminating stories I referenced above from a time when we felt like we were owning life, only to have Sarge remind us how quickly and forcefully life turned on us. He recalled a conversation shortly before we met the end of our ropes, where we described “being on E”. Corey and I then told Jill how we weren’t even sure where our next meals were coming from, let alone how to pay bills or be a functioning adult. A quick glance at that era brought positive sentiment, but a look at the days that made that up that era reminded us how rough they actually were.
So yeah, the years are short, and the days can be really [censored for my mom] long. The best part about those long days, though, is they’re behind us. So while we reminisce on them, we can feel renewed as well.
Happy New Year. I hope this year's days are not too long for you.