Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It Ends

It ends.
The moment is gone,
the next is here.

Now that one too,
has departed from the world.
As gone as the oldest star,
as distant as the foreign galaxies.

It always ends.


For much of my life I thought it would be amazing to visit another planet. In the strangest of ways, Australia whittled away that longing. The new millennium has brought talk about people wanting to live on Mars, but I really can't agree with that desire. To visit is one thing, but to move permanently is another. Mars could never be home to anyone except for the children that are born there (someday there will likely be people born on Mars from parents who have moved from Earth). Honestly, why would anyone want to move to such a remote place for a few weeks of excitement followed by a lifetime of boredom and loneliness? As much as Australia looks like Mars on a map, it fortunately exists on the same planet as each of us. And unlike Mars, Adelaide is the opposite of isolated. I wasn't miserable there for even a second. But it's not home.

Everything I've learned in Australia thus far, from academics, to social relationships, to cultural nuances will all stay with me for the remainder of my life. My guess is that most, if not all other UND students that have gone off on exchange can agree with me on this one: the cities around the world we've been to are all more enjoyable to live in than Grand Forks, North Dakota. But what we need to keep in mind is that if it weren't for Grand Forks, if it weren't for UND, we would have never gotten the chance to know that. And for that, I will never be able to thank the University of North Dakota enough.

When I first arrived in Australia, I was effectively a ghost. Living on the outside, knowing no one. But after spending enough time in Adelaide, everything started to become eerily familiar. I created an entire life on my own, separate from everything I've ever known. That's scary. Not many people I know that are my age have done that yet, and I'm not sure if some of them even could. By the end of my stay, I could hardly walk down the street without running into someone I knew or recognized. On my bike, for instance, I would come across places that I not only remembered, but could trace exactly back to where I lived. Places that I knew from one angle were rediscovered from other perspectives, filling the gaps in my own internal map of the world.

Nothing is the same anymore. The places around Adelaide that were once mysterious to me are now everyday sights of life.

Earth is an amazing planet. It is filled with odds an ends and too many places to discover than time in any one person's life. But if you ever get the chance to travel, make it a useful experience. Don't let others or the media define your perspective of the world. Go and find out for yourself. And if you don't like to travel, that's okay too. This might be an unpopular statement, but I'll say it anyways: disregard those telling you that you should go out of your comfort zone. If you want to, it's your choice. And just because you do, doesn't automatically mean that your life will be happier or more enlightened than it is already. The truth is, you can remain in your comfort zone nearly your whole life and live quite happily and comfortably. Then again, if you do choose to venture out, there's an entire world of possibilities out there that have the potential of making your life more interesting, exciting and enriching. But it ultimately doesn't matter which one you choose. Even if you stay in your comfort zone, someone else could enter into your life because they stepped outside their own comfort zone, making your life better or worse. And if you're the one that steps out, maybe you end up missing out on other benefits in life because you were gone doing other things.

What I'm trying to say is that there's no perfect advice, no sayings to go by that for sure, 100 percent make people's lives better. Life is a series or randomly interlinked events that could turn your way or the other with absolutely no certain predictability. Sure, maybe you decide to go out with your friends on a Saturday to have a really great time, and you do. But in another reality, say you tell your friends you're tired and don't want to go out. Say you stay home for the night, and realize you're hungry for ice cream. Say you go to the grocery store to pick out some ice cream, and as you're heading out the door you drop your wallet in the parking lot and someone picks it up for you. Say that the person who picks up your wallet turns out to be the love of your life. It is not likely, but it is absolutely possible.

Discovery is like the cold on a Minnesotan winter morning. You can't hide from it. The world is out there to discover, but at the same time we're out there too, and regardless of where we are or what we decide to do, the world is constantly discovering each of us. And if you're reading this and think you missed out on Australia, you didn't. Because even though Australia provided me with a once in a lifetime experience, maybe it was I that missed out on life back home. Maybe it was I that missed out on the rest of the world. Maybe it was I that missed out on going to the grocery store. Maybe it was I that missed out on you.


It's now one of my first few days back, and I'm at my dentist's office in St. Paul. After he finishes with my teeth, I get on my bike and decide to take a slight detour on the way home. I decide to go through Como Park. As I zoom down Lexington and make my way through the parklands, Conservatory, and Pavilion, a familiar thought, a thought I've known all my life crosses my mind. I realize that although some things have changed about this place, all in all, it's essentially the same. It's still the same neighborhood I've lived in and loved my whole life. It still doesn't get any better than this. After spending enough time living in this neighborhood, it's become much more than just a place. Really, it's no longer even place at all; it's my memories.

I don't view the world the same way an average park visitor does. I'm riding down Como Avenue now, but it's not merely a sidewalk that I see alongside the road. I see my 12 year old self and his friends, walking back to his house after a day at the old Como Pool. I make my way around Como Lake and pass the pavilion, but it's not merely a waterfall that I see across from the building. No, I see my 8 year old self in the plunge pool jumping from rock to rock, suddenly fleeing from the onslaught of down-pouring rain. Finally, I find myself at the East of end of the lake, but instead of making the final turn down Victoria Street, I take a right onto Maryland, going past my house, high school, and place of work. And there he is again, my young self. I can see him now, there's so many of him. He's walking home from high school. He's rollerblading to work. He's playing baseball with his brothers at the elementary school. I've only lived for two decades and the past is already starting to spook me. Because even my memories aren't memories anymore. They are there right in front of me, dancing and embracing, singing and smiling at me.

It's hard to say how much any of us really know about love, but what I know is that it's anything but superficial. You wouldn't love someone that has a negative impact on your life or a terrible personality, no matter how good looking or infatuating they may be. And the same goes for a place. I don't just love places like Adelaide, Como Park and more because they're beautiful. I love them because they have character. I love them because of the invaluable memories we've shared together. I love them because no matter where I find myself in life, I can always go back to them and smile.

For a long time, I've searched for a name to describe my love for where I live. "Topophilia" works well enough, a word that translates from Greek to literally mean "love of place". But then that got me thinking. Is it as simple as me deciding to love this place? Is love a decision? Or could it be that this place has loved me all along? After all, I never had a say in the location of my birth. I couldn't find a better term until years later, when I discovered an obscure song by MGMT, called "Love Always Remains". It's a relatively pleasant song, but the title itself is what really speaks volumes. As straightforward as that simple phrase seems to be, it's really not. The term "love always remains" does not actually mean that one's love for something always remains. Love doesn't necessarily last forever. What it's really saying is that when something lasts forever, it's love. And that's the beauty of it all. A place will never break your heart. A place will never fall out of love with you. People change, but places don't. If you truly love a place, it will love you back forever.


Adelaide, South Australia
February 2015 - June 2015
To my parents, for putting me in the right place

1 comment:

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