They say hindsight is 20/20.
It certainly feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it? When everything falls apart, we’d love the opportunity to go back in time and make a change, and when everything comes together seamlessly, we wish that we could tell our past selves to stop worrying so much. The temptation to look back into the past is ever-present; we crave insight into this moment by seeking out the reasoning behind it. Hindsight is a fickle friend, though, one with an unreliable memory and a flair for the dramatic.
Undoubtedly, this has been the best semester of my life. I wouldn’t trade this study abroad experience for the world, and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone in a heartbeat. But just because this semester has been wonderful doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days, or that I didn’t go through rough times just because I’ve been in Europe.
At the beginning of the semester, I felt as if I wasn’t traveling outside of Copenhagen enough, but now I fear I’m traveling too much. Before, I was drowning in free time, wasting away days of the week as if I had all the time in the world. Now, with just a month left in Denmark, I can’t remember the last day I had off from working or packing or traveling or classes…
But I know that when I return and people ask me, “How was it?” I won’t have an honest answer for them. Incredible, of course, full of growth and amazing opportunities, but mostly indescribable. Where to begin? Do you want to hear about the quiet thrill I got whenever I rode the metro, never having lived in a big city before? Or about how hard it was on my parents when we realized my financial aid wouldn’t actually cover everything that I thought it would? Do you want to hear about how many cafés I tried within walking distance of my classes, or about my weekend trips away from Denmark? I could tell you all of that and more, and it still won’t even begin to cover what these past 3 months have been like for me.
Looking back on your life, you can only hope to see fragments. Flashes of moments in time that you happen to remember because the emotions were strong enough to be ingrained in you. Whether those feelings be elation or devastation, anxiety or boredom or pure bliss, you’ll likely only remember the bare minimum. Sitting by the ocean in Croatia, you remember serenity. But the smell of the salt, the sound of the waves, the sight of the children playing on the rocks- those memories will fade. They can’t be replicated or even recalled perfectly. You’ll remember the nights you spent hours laughing with your friends, but not what you were laughing about. The jokes that escape your memory aren’t important, though; life is about the laughter.
The point is, life is made up of moments. Moments that seem inconsequential, moments that feel monumental, and moments that start off in one of those categories but move into the other over time. For better or worse, that’s all we get. Just memories. Fragments.
The idea is sad in its inevitability, but perhaps we can also find comfort in it. Find refuge in the knowledge that whatever hard times we may be going through right now will soon be just memories. Another chapter in this book that we’ll read to our children and grandchildren one day before it ends. And in the meantime, all we can do is make sure that each day’s moments are worth remembering. Try to ensure that this chapter makes for an interesting read. After all, what else do we have? Nothing beyond the memories we have from the past, the moments we’re making in the present, and all the ones that we have to look forward to in the future.
Fragments, if you will.