A Collection of Postcards
I have a collection of postcards that I keep in a box under my bed.
The first one is from Stratford upon Avon. The second from Brighton. Third, London. Fourth, Rome. Fifth, Capri. Sixth, Paris.
I have postcards from my home in Los Angeles, and my college town of Santa Barbara. From the city of my birth in Arizona, and a gas station in Dallas from when I took a road trip down South. Sometimes I pull out the box from under my bed and flip through them—England, Italy, Texas, California.
Some people like to put tacks on a map of the places they’ve seen, whether through the window of an airport or up close and personal in the heart of a town that doesn’t belong to them. But what I like to do is hunt down the tackiest souvenir shop, browse through the shot glasses and T-shirts, and walk away with a single postcard that will never make its way into a mailbox.
I look at the pictures on the front, try to recall seeing those views from a much more personal point-of-view.
Remember that time when…
My memory isn’t the best. My friends get mad at me for forgetting that time when we ran into our high school math teacher in a coffee shop, or when we day-tripped to the beach last summer.
I need physical proof in my hands—a photo, a postcard—to remember that my life hasn’t been a series of waking up, drinking coffee, going to school, going to work. There’s a highlight reel too—England, Italy, Texas, California.
Remember that time when…
I’m trying. I’m flipping through those postcards, putting memories to the stories written on the back, trying my best to never forget.
I find myself flipping through those postcards more regularly then I should. Because right now, I don’t feel like I’m living in a highlight reel of my life.
6 am: Alarm goes off.
7:30 am: Stop hitting snooze.
8–5 pm: Sit behind a desk.
5–10 pm: Stare at my computer screen.
I’m still in my first year of living this life that looks like a full-time job, paying rent on the first of every month, doing taxes, dreaming about emails that still need to get sent. And the truth is that I spend a lot of time living in daydreams of the past, wishing I could go back.
It scares me that forward is the only direction life allows us to move.
Because people change between goodbyes, and you can never have their old self back again.
Because houses you grew up in get sold, and you’ll never look out that window to see your dad trimming the plum tree down again.
Because cars break down, and you won’t see that stain your best friend’s coffee left on the passenger seat when you were doubled over laughing again.
Because family moves, and because relationships end, and because the good old days become something you don’t groan over hearing your grandparents say at the dinner table, but a memory of the time they were alive to say it to you.
Sometimes a postcard feels like all you have left of a time you would do anything to re-live.
“You’re way too young to be thinking like this,” my friend tells me after I have a mini-breakdown on her. And she’s right.
I sometimes look at a life with no regrets as one where the highlight reel never ends: traveling somewhere new every week, jumping out of planes and off of brides, dancing onstage at concerts, exploring beaches on islands I’ve never even heard of.
I forget that there’s a difference between living and adventuring.
Adventuring is part of living. I have a list of adventures to add to the highlight reel of my life; I want to see Africa, I want to go skydiving, I want to go backpacking and Eat, Pray, Love with strangers across the world. I want to collect a postcard at every stop to add to the box under my bed and try to never forget the adventures I only dreamed I would have.
But adventure is only one part of living. Because living means grieving lives lost, means learning how to love people, means working—even when it’s tedious, means having days where all you can manage is waking up and trying not to pull out the postcards to focus on the day ahead.
Life will push us forward—there’s no compromise, no deal you can strike, that will change that. All we can do is try our best to avoid the neck cramp from looking behind us for a road to take us back from where we came from.
That road doesn’t exist.
Praise God that road doesn’t exist. Because as many times as I’ve looked back at times passed, I’ve never found anything new to see.