Transience possesses a remarkable ability to control every aspect of life.
At least, it does for me.
Transience is anxiety, fear of the unknown, a need to plan.
It affects (or perhaps is affected by) my weight, my friendships, my contentment, my finances. It affects my ability to decide. My ability to be.
I’ve lived in this anxious ridden transience for the past three years.
As a child – in a naivety that I wish could be afforded to all children – I assumed that stability was the norm. Family, friendships, church attendance were constant. We may have moved houses and switched around schools, but to my childhood eyes, the days carried on in safe routine. A beautiful monotony I acknowledged as norm.
This rhythm was broken at the age of thirteen when we moved a few states away. Saint Louis. I didn’t care the city’s name – Missouri sounded an awful lot like Misery. The tears that stained my pillowcase in those long, dry months of transition mourned less this new location, and more a loss of the known.
But Saint Louis too became a new home, and patterns of life resumed. Dear friendships blossomed and family was there. And we may have moved churches and switched around schools, but to my teenage eyes, stability seemed an attainable goal. Not even much of a goal, I assumed it was the norm.
Until at age 18 I scratched the itch of adventure and unleashed a remarkable drive to work against the status quo. If college was the norm, I desired to be anywhere but. A ship in West Africa seemed the best option.
So I braved the lonely, across-the-world flight. Shedding a few tears at Lambert Airport, bidding adieu to all I’d known, particularly the family and dear friend who waved from solid ground – reminding me that Saint Louis would never again be my stable home. Then I shed a few more at Charles de Gaulle, in fear of what was to come.
But soon the rhythmic sway of waves became the newest form of that stability I craved. More friendships formed, my work was routine. I delighted in most of my chores. And then the time came to begin saying goodbye as one by one, friends would depart. 21 roommates in 7 months: we’d shuffle around beds with each goodbye, aiming to claim a spot in the 6’ x 6’ “suite.” But on every cot my pillow collected a fresh set of tears, as those I loved moved away taking my sense of constancy with them.
Upon entering college, the walls began, any naïve hope for normalcy shattered with the latest farewell. I’d collected friends like others might coins, and now they were scattered across the globe. And so I spoke on the phone late into the night, and I e-mailed early in the morning. And I went to class, and I did my homework, but chose not to make any more friends. Until the craving for company grew too strong as a few brave souls dared to hammer away my weakly built barriers. And again, I settled into a new routine – 3 years until any more goodbyes; that felt a safe enough time.
Then college came to a close, and my family chose a new city. And holding on to that need for adventure, I decided that I too would follow. And maybe some routines were established, but change was the primary constant. Shuffling around from job to job, unsure of my exact goal. Beginning school, not knowing if I’d finish. Taking out loans, unsure if it was wise. With each new piece of furniture, I established permanency in my new home. And yet from the new couch, or table, or chair, I’d search for the next place to go. A PhD in North Carolina, seminary in Connecticut? A dream job in New York, or Pittsburgh, or anywhere but here?
And the walls fluctuated – some days they’d disappear, and new friends became so dear. And other days they were so high no new soul could dare climb over. Stability for once seemed unattainable, transience the only norm. And wading through this phase of life proved far more dicey than child or teen Kendall had expected before.
Sometimes I stop and think about the number of dear friends I have scattered around the world. It’s too many, really, to count, but if I had to guess its probably 30 or 40 that I consider really close.
30 or 40 beloved men and women who have sat with me, laughed with me, traveled with me. Reunions full of tears – both sadness and joy. We’ve met at many weddings, we’ve held one another at funerals. We’ve cried on the phone through divorce, we’ve rejoiced when a few have given birth. We’ve flown across the country and around the world for just a few days to explore.
In some moments, I lament that I can’t hold everyone close. It’s impossible to consistently catch up with everyone on the phone. And sometimes I fear that I’ll never let anyone else new in – at some point I’m bound to hit my heart’s capacity. And so the cycle of transience begins again, because if I only keep on moving, no one will have the time to get too close.
Last week, I rode my bike away from a café where I’d said my latest goodbye. Tears fogged up my sunglasses, I don’t wait for the pillow anymore. But as I bid this latest adieu – to a couple headed out west – I cycled, myself, back towards my new stability. Prepared to sign my fourth year’s lease in a city that always changes. Prepared to begin a fulfilling job that does not demand unreasonable hours for unreasonable pay; with a newfound time to travel and write, and the chance to read a novel for fun.
Perhaps it is the resuscitation of naïve hope that leads me to believe that I’m entering a new season with a sense of something stable. I’m unsure if it’s this city or this age, or the circles of people in which I run, but transience has been my Boston norm. Yet somehow I think I can now stay in this city, and I can make it feel like my home. I’m unsure if the walls will fall back down to let in anyone new, or if I could (or should?) fall into routine with those who are already here.
In the next year, or two, or three, I’m bound to say more goodbyes. I’m bound to begin to fear patterns and rhythms and staying in one place. I’m bound to attempt to escape. But for now I’m rejoicing in a new monotony, a new semblance of routine.
I wonder what might appear to adult eyes cast on my opening scenes. Did that stability child Kendall found so normal appear only routine to me? Of what anxieties of finance, of loss, of change was I blissfully unaware? Is transience always the norm, an evil I must learn to love? Perhaps it is not the transience, then, that controls every aspect of life. Perhaps it is indecision or a need for something new.
Whatever it may be, I’m choosing now to bid it a (final?) adieu.