Is it not weird how you can never appreciate the real beauty of an event until it is over?
I was just jogging down memory lane (yes, again, I know) and it was about a year ago today that I found out that I got the research position in Osaka. I still remember it was a day of fresh snow, and bitterly cold outside, but everything was perfect through my eyes. All I wanted to do was tell the whole world about this good news. I was literally jumping out of excitement the entire way home, and nothing could erase that grin on my face. As the story unfolded, I ended up in a completely new city with an expense-paid trip; made side trips to Hiroshima, Okinawa, and even the top of Mt. Fuji; and I had a lot of fun with the new friends I made in Japan. When I think back about Japan, I remember fun, smiles, excitement, and happiness.
Now, the more I think, the more apparent this irony becomes. Reminiscence is a funny thing. I look back on amazing moments, times that I call the ‘times of my life’… but do these recollections of happiness truly ignite happiness as I remember them? If anything, I would say it causes an eerie emptiness in my heart. Seeing the pictures in front of you makes everything so much more real – especially the fact that it is all over. We cannot go back and relive the day. All that is left are blurred snapshots, accompanied by a conversation assembled through remnants of our memories.
The thing is, I have experienced that emptiness of reminiscence before, and surprisingly enough, this look back on Japan does not give me the same feeling. What I have come to realize is that the mundane and boring everyday activities are the ones I miss the most. Things like walking by the same mall everyday on my way home, and occasionally choosing to shop for a while; or going out for a run every week at the same park, taking the same route every time. Even when I walk into a 7-11, I miss the wide selection of onigiri, sushi, and teriyaki, despite this being a common thing in Japan. Perhaps these small, boring details represent life in Japan, as opposed to the highlights that simply tell me it was a vacation getaway. Or maybe because these things were constant while they witnessed my own growth over the three months there. Either way, you could say that I am reminiscing about a process of maturity, rather than any single event.
It is always fun to reconstruct a ‘remember when’ conversation when you are with the same group of friends. But when you are alone, as I often am – thinking about all that has happened, thinking about how awesome it once was, and slowly feeling the emptiness eating up inside of you – think about the time. The time you opened your mind to a blindingly obvious fact, because before that, your heart was completely closed. The time you did something silly in public, and you totally felt stupid about it, but nobody was around you to notice, making you feel even stupider. The time you felt proud of yourself for making it so far on your own, even if it was just a simple train ride away from home. They might not be moments that make you go “aww man, I wish we could go do that again!”, but they are definitely moments that will give you a silent smile in solitude.
The times that I speak of are simply average moments we call ‘everyday life’, but every one of these ‘times’ shape the character that you are today. Of course, this change is a process. It does not happen overnight. That is why the beauty of each tale cannot be fully appreciated until we piece them all together at the end. And, since life is the main story binding all our chapters together, I would like to propose: life is beautiful. Our lives have not ended yet, and occasionally this truth may be a bit clouded, but life is beautiful. Not because the day was beautiful, or the people in it were beautiful, but because God made life itself a beautiful thing.
So now, when I reminisce, it is no longer depressing stories of what once was… but instead, an acknowledgement in gratitude for the beautiful life God has given me.