“There are days in this life, worth life and worth death. And what a bright old song it is, that ’tis love that makes the world go round!”
Tomorrow morning I leave for the airport at nine. There is a 1:05 flight from Munich to somewhere that is not Munich, and I will be on it, and I will probably be crying, but I will be very happy. I won’t say that I’m not sad, but I will say that I am happy and lucky. I have a heart full of love as I leave—love for the place, love for this life, tremendous love for the both the people I’m leaving behind and the people who await me back home.
The past six months haven’t changed me, I don’t think—they’ve scrubbed away the excess. Each of us little humans has his own little cogs, his own individual working machinery, and each of us aggregates a sticky buildup of identities, bitternesses, resentments, memories, false conceptions, preconceptions, true conceptions, relationships and scars and wounds and fatigue—we are piping systems, swollen with life, congested by time. We’re afraid to be who we are, we mistake who we are, we don’t know who we are at all. Whatever it is, very few of us are clear. Very few of us are washed clean, running smoothly, free from the anxiety of the modern world.
We all know that I’m not clean. I’m not centered or calm or “in harmony” with myself. Frankly, I’m really just one walking crisis—my mind is like a bag of half-herded cats, scrambling and yowling and jostling around restlessly. But let’s be honest here. If you’re reading this, I’ll bet you know how I feel. We all know that we’re not nearly as “together” as we pretend to be, as we think we are. I’m not saying you feel like a spiderweb in a thunderstorm all the time, but I’ll bet you’ve got an idea.
This trip has been an unruly beast, but its storms have weathered and I have basked in weeks of warmth, both spiritual and physical (honestly, the warm weather does actually help). I met people whom I enjoy, whom I trust, whom I find myself remembering fondly. I have laughed and smiled more than ever. I have let myself enjoy this little universe, and it has blossomed, bursting into color and opportunity and and genuine happiness.
Life is a beautiful thing. The best and worst part is—it never stops. It’s chugging like a train with no brakes, and that’s both an inspiring opportunity and a dreadful tragedy. We can reach out and grasp life, but we also must let it slip through our fingers in a weird, perpetual act of simultaneous reception and release. It’s not ours to control. We simply live it. We’re aboard the train, and we sometimes steer the train (if we’re lucky), but we don’t ever choose our speed. Everything eventually slips into the past.
The thing that stays, though? That’s love. That stays with you, even when everything else fades from view.
We collect love in our lives like postage stamps. We form beautiful relationships in our little pockets of existence, and no matter what happens, we always have the memory: we have the exquisite affection of connecting with another human soul. The people whom I’ve met, those wonderful friends whom I’ve fallen in love, they will always be worthwhile. No matter how much it pains me to leave them, I will always have the warm, heart-tingling, anxiety-soothing, smile-sparking love—the love that grows in memory, that oozes from fond recollection and seeps into our hearts and gilds our lives with the golden glow of harmony. It’s instinct, really, that happiness of recognizing a kindred spirit. It’s not the measure of time in the friendship; it’s the measure of heart.
I’ve lived a lot of things here that could have “defined” me. I’ve been the girl who stays in every night and reads Hemingway. I’ve been the girl who dances on the bar at a club. I’ve been the girl who stays overnight in a McDonald’s because she has literally nowhere to sleep that night. I’ve been the girl who crashes her bike into a pole in front of an entire crowd. I’ve been the girl who eats an entire Italian pizza in one sitting, and I’ve been the girl who runs five miles every day and eats only vegetables. I’ve done a lot of wonderful things. I’ve done a lot of cool things. I’ve done a lot of things I’m perhaps not particularly proud of. I’ve done many more than I am absolutely proud of.
But those things aren’t what define my happiness. It’s not about the things I did; it’s the people with whom I did them. What matters are the people I’ve met, the friendships I’ve formed, the wonderful people I’ll remember all my life. Those are my favorite memories. Those are the memories that make me feel like this trip was worthwhile in more than just helping me grow—it was worthwhile in introducing me to them.
And that’s when I realize—love is the thing that really scrubs us clean. That’s what really unwinds our tangles, plucks out our thorns, washes off our grimy little resentments. We sticky, messy, petty, fearful humans are cleansed by love. I never feel more like myself than when I am connecting with someone else.
But perhaps I’m simply sentimental, and it’s all a load of crap. Who knows.
It’s possible, and I think I’ll take the hopeful route. After all, I know how it feels to me. You, dear reader, know how it feels to you, and you may make your own judgement call.
For me, though? I know that love is the only thing that has made my life worthwhile, the only thing that has ever pulled me from my own confusion. All the fear, all the worry, all the existential grime of being alive—that dissolves when we really connect together. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of reminding us to be open, to remember our fellow-beings, even in our own chaos. Maybe human souls are whole only in communion with one another.