As humans, it is our moral duty to endure. We endure trials and sorrow so that we may joyfully live in ephemeral moments of happiness. It seems so simple. Most of us can list the things that bring us this happiness. The way dust floats in streams of sunlight, spring’s thawing earth crunching beneath our feet, vast skies and the pleasure of a valued conversation. We know what we want because we want the same thing as everyone else. We want to spend endless stretches of days living within the confines of this secure happiness. We want to feel the comfort of knowing exactly who we are and what we are doing but mostly, we don’t want to feel pain. Feeling pain while having a clear knowledge of happiness doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make sense because all of the sudden, seeing the way the dust floats in the sunlight, and the earth crunches beneath our feet, and seeing miles and miles of vast sky, all of the sudden those things are seen through a filter of sadness. Everything is different but nothing really has changed. It’s just that now, with our moment of happiness gone, we are reverted back to our most honest moral state. The pain helps us survive, or rather, it teaches us to survive.
The thing about pain is that it teaches more about life than happiness ever could. Pain dances along the shadows of change. It comes creeping in and when it’s there we feel it. We know something is different but we probably didn’t even realize anything was changing. Often, it’s only when we look back that we realize the difference between then and now. We don’t know that the moments we have just lived define us. We don’t know the moments we are living right now are the ones we will miss one day. I think maybe that’s what it is to grow up. Growing up is entirely intertwined with the pain of change because acknowledging our growth means acknowledging that things are different than they once were. Much like change, it seems to happen not at all and then all at once.
I had my first all at once moment when I was sixteen. Through the sunroof of my very first car, the night sky seemed to extend out forever. I could drive and drive and drive and never gain any distance against the backdrop of a waning moon. In a way, that thought was comforting. Down in the close world of sixteen-year-old life, it was beginning to appear that nothing was forever. I had woken up one morning to discover that my childlike naiveté was replaced by that filter of sadness. I could look back on vivid memories and recall days where I was certain my joy would never end. That is the scariest thing; being thrown into such an acute awareness of change. Once you begin to see it, you realize it is everywhere. People and places and relationships are never ever the same as they once were. By the time you think about something, already it has changed from that memory. And that is scary, in fact, it may be terrifying.
Except there also is nothing sweeter. The natural world around us proves this each day. A ceaseless stream of sunrises and sunsets give way to dawn and dusk without hesitation and seasons cycle through with intentions of eternity. Still somehow it always seems more beautiful. And maybe that is how life is. It’s changing constantly and change hurts but then we stop and look around. We stop and look and throw our heads back to bask in the happiness that does exist all around us. Even with our filters of sadness we know it is there and sometimes we can see how much more beautiful everything has become.
I know almost nothing for certain, but I do know that there has not been a single instance where my growth hasn’t brought me a clear comprehension of purpose. Change and pain and growing up all carry the power of a second chance. The sentiment paralleled by the increasing beauty of each setting sun proves to us that someday all this pain will make sense. It won’t stop changing and we won’t ever stop growing up, but we will begin to see life without the filters of sadness again. It won’t be hard forever because nothing is forever. Only change and the way that the sun shines through the trees and the knowledge that beauty exists long after that sun will set.