Growing up, I was terrified of change, terrified of any disruption in my well-oiled routine. When I went away to college, my mother sold my childhood home and moved up North, which left me so devastated that I actually rented a room in a house down the street just so I could still live there during the summer and have things feel sort of the same. It didn’t work, of course. In fact, it made me feel even more terrible but I wasn’t old enough to know yet that just because something feels familiar doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
I always placed a lot of weight and power into memories. To me, they served as proof that my life was real, that it was actually happening, that I had friends, a family, and people who loved me. Things like restaurants or certain streets would start to have major significance. For example, my grandmother was born in Westwood and lived there until she was 9, and when I moved there very briefly when I was 20 years old, I would hold on to that fact. I would obsess over this idea that my grandmother once also called this place home because that meant it was my home as well. I had history here. My grandmother may have walked the very street that I was walking on. This was somehow very important! (Looking back, I think the root of all this obsession was just me trying to feel at home somewhere and exert some control. For awhile, I would do anything to feel less lost.)
Sometimes I go back to my hometown of Ventura, California, and look for clues that I once lived there. I spent 18 years in that town and yet everything I knew seemed to get erased overnight. College happened. Almost all of my friends moved away. I have no family there. Suddenly, this place that used to mean everything to me now meant nothing. Again, I became obsessed with finding things that would link me back to that town. Ventura quickly became like a museum full of artifacts to me. What could I find that would tether me again to this place? I remember five years after I moved away, I was visiting Ventura and walking down the alleyway of my best friend’s house when all of a sudden I saw faded chalk outlines on the wall from a drawing that my friend and I had made when we were 17. I couldn’t believe it was still there, that it had survived all of these years. It was pathetic how happy that it made me, that there was something I drew years earlier still up on the wall. “That’s it, that’s my proof!”
The sad thing about obsessing over the past and being a hoarder of memories is that it leaves your present day completely abandoned. From the ages of 19 to 22, I was so fixated on having roots, of being tied to somewhere, that I prevented myself from accomplishing the one thing I actually wanted, which was having a home. Only when I stopped looking for clues did I actually find what I was looking for.
There’s no use in being a ghost haunting a bag of old memories. If you decide to fight change, you will lose. Because time has the ultimate power here. It has more power than any of us. The second you realize that, the easier and more fulfilling your life will be. When I think about the person that I was, the person that rented a room down the street from his childhood home and was always desperately searching for something that would anchor him somewhere, I wish I could tell him that there is no point, that this is a battle you cannot win. But like with every valuable lesson you learn in your life, you just have to come to it on your own terms.