Something I’ve noticed recently is how memories can be tainted so easily. I recently have gone through a Scott Pilgrim phase, for the second time; my friends and family put up with my obsessive binge-reading, followed by a plethora of comments about it. But one article on it struck me. It focused on the unreliability of the narrator, and how necessary it was for him to face his past, not in denial of its horrors, but grasping the joy within it.
How do you interpolate these two narratives? How do you combine the brokenheartedness someone caused you with the joy they brought? Often I get so caught up in my own melodrama that I forget how to be joyous, or even vice versa. “Nothing good came of this entire relationship,” I tell myself; “it was never worth it.” And yet, if it amounted to only pain, how can I justify the hilarious moments I shared with that person, the jam nights, the phone calls, the sardonic conversations?
As an extension of that, how many times have I found myself in one of the happiest moments of my life, when I am struck with a shard of pain knowing it will all end? Suddenly I find my mind thrust into despair, as if I cannot possibly let myself be happy. And looking back, the memory is tainted still, even if the other person(s) involved had the time of their lives. How can I free myself of this despair and enjoy happiness, however fleeting it may be?
One of the only times I am free of this crushing sensation is when I am with my family. No matter how far away we live, I know we will always return home, to my mother’s house, where Willie will say something absolutely bizarre and play it off as normal; Daniel will play along; Mom will unexpectedly blurt something strange; and I will laugh and loudly reply. There is no fear here. There is only acceptance.
Slowly, I’ve realized becoming an adult means taking the bitter of the past with the sweet, learning from it, and moving forward through it. I cannot forget pain I have had or caused, and I cannot fear pain happening again–pain will happen no matter what. Instead, I must remember how I moved on.
Even if growing up involves turning away from the person I loved and/or used to be, it means turning toward something better.
No matter how much pain it causes to move on, I know I am avoiding more mistakes through it. Laura Hudson addresses this in the aforementioned article on Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour: “[G]rowing up is a natural function of seeking a life that is more dynamic than static, of choosing ambition and hope over avoidance and fear, of wanting to know who you’re going to be and not just who you were, even if that takes you away from the things you used to love.”
This is very true in my life, as I am leaving college, home, and everything I once knew in the next year. I feel terrified and nervous, excited and unprepared; I assure myself that change is necessary, yet still cling to old memories until I’m clawing at the wind as life sweeps me away in a turn I never asked for. Perhaps the longing for things to stay still is my hamartia; perhaps, instead of blood in my veins, I am consumed by nostalgia.
There’s a page near the end of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour where Scott says, “Things can’t be the same, can they?” His main love interest, Ramona, replies, “Things never were the same. Change is…it’s what we get.” (Bryan Lee O’Malley) And no matter how much I try to fight this, it continuously proves itself true. Like a child building a sandcastle too near the waves, I build my life so perfectly, resisting the world; but in the end, it’s all swept away, and I have to leave it behind with nothing but a memory to keep with me.
To prove her earlier point, Hudson adds these lines: “[W]hen you miss someone that you once loved, how much are you missing them, and how much are you missing the way they made you feel? Or the person you used to be when you were with them?” I love this last line by Hudson because nostalgia is so prominent in today’s society.
Sometimes I gloss over old memories as if they were a gallery of “best hits,” with the lows in a back room, covered in old grey sheets. Other times, I hang every gash of the past while the happier moments are shoved in a corner.
If adulthood means a battle between the truth and my memory, then so be it. I will battle until I conquer this behemoth. Though I fall into the shadow of misconception, I will fear no evil. It is a rod and a staff to set me on the right path. I will fight my way forward to the end.