by Jaye Elizabeth
“what if our hard work ends in despair? / what if the road won’t take me there? / oh, I wish, for once, we could stay gold.”
– Stay Gold, First Aid Kit
What started as a project to get myself out of bed after a hard night became just the reminder I needed after a hard month and a half.
Since graduation, since starting work as a full-time employee, since getting ready for a move 636 miles away from home, I’ve been overwhelmed by change. Friendships are evolving: some are dying; some are strengthening, making leaving that much harder. My days are full of hard-to-handle kids and my evenings are full of decompression and tears, as my energy loss and emotional taxes turn my productivity to zero and my “me” time to mush. And my sense of certainty is now gone. I don’t know how to be an art student, how to live in New York City, how to buy kitchenware and decorate a pseudo-apartment. I don’t know how to let go except that I know I want to.
I am scared.
As I was making this banner, my mother asked me the meaning of such words. I shrugged. (I didn’t tell her that it was just because I love The Outsiders and couldn’t fit “Ponyboy” onto so short a piece of cord.) She told me about writing the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s song into her matron of honor speech for my aunt and uncle on their wedding day. She told me about the lyrics. She smiled at my workspace, only half of the letters cut out, and said, “I love it.”
I sat down tonight to listen to the song, along with a similarly-named First Aid Kid track I fell in love with a couple months ago. This was exactly what I needed.
I don’t want to try to decipher the meaning of the song for you, partly because I have no right to make your own conclusions for you, and even if I did, I wouldn’t quite get it myself. But what I hear in my heart and my bones is music that holds in it the power and pain of memory, the heartache and the happy and the life it leaves with us. The life.
“life is but a twinkling of an eye / yet filled with sorrow and compassion / though not imagined / all things that happen / will age too old / though gold.”
– Stay Gold, Stevie Wonder
My life is hard right now, but I have so much to be grateful for. I have loving support systems that will never falter and a bright, shining future, and a month left at home with my sisters, parents, friends, and mentors. These new things I am waiting for are coming much too fast and not fast enough. But I am going to live moment-to-moment, among both the doubt and the restlessness.
Nothing lasts forever. I knew that in the back of my mind, but I hadn’t quite learned it. I’m in the process of learning it now, and it is so hard. The water stains on my pillowcases are enough to prove it, or else the buckets that would pour from them should I wring them out. And chances are, this time of anxiety and tears will last until I step foot in my dorm, maybe follow me through the first weeks without hugs from my mother, but eventually it will fade and I will be living my new life.
You can hold tight to memories, to relationships, to normal, all while saying goodbye. This is my new lesson. I will be thrown into learning it soon.