Siege Diaries 3/27/2021


Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  What valuable things do I sell too cheaply?

I’m not sure I sell anything too cheaply. If we’re talking valuable “things” like time, expertise, or emotional investment, I think I generally do pretty well.  I’m good at allocating time.  Expertise?  I’m happy to share and teach, but I need to get something out of it, too, even if that’s just satisfaction in seeing another person learn.   I’m not sure how I would be doing as a teacher during this pandemic.  I’ve done fairly well over the years in “work-life balance”, and all the teachers I know are struggling, but for most of them, teaching is a calling (as I thought it was for me).   

The change is happening.  It’s been happening for some time, for years even, but then something occurs and you look around you and realize that you will never see some people again.  When the gap was only a few years since you last saw them, that didn’t seem to matter.  You were young.  Your life spread in front of you, your potentialities unlimited.  You wanted to see the world, or maybe not, but the past was easy to invoke and evoke and then, perhaps, leave behind.  You were ready to make new friends. It would always be there. The people you passed in the hallways, the smell of the place, the rooms themselves–not just in your memories, physically present somewhere in the world. Until suddenly, they’re not.

A man died.  I last saw him when he was a boy just edging into adulthood. I barely knew him, but I did know him, because he was one of those larger-than-life characters every high school class has–funny, and goofy, with a passion for life.  He left those halls the same time I did.  He strode the stage of the Ohio Theater minutes after I did, and then passed out of my thoughts, except for when I thumbed the pages of my yearbook. He passed out of my life at the same time.  I did not know until he died where his path had taken him, and when I learned, I stopped and wondered at the world, and how many acquaintances have slipped in and out of my life over the years, memories that lay dormant until stirred by tragic news.

 There are others who walked those halls with me.  I never knew many of them beyond a name, a face, or perhaps something they were known for.  Some were once friends, but, at the end, although we shared history, our paths had already parted. I sometimes wonder about them nonetheless.  Here and there, over the years, a person from those yearbook pages has died too young.  It happens, we say. They’re still too young–right now–but they’re increasingly older, the demises sad but more and more unextraordinary, and I can see the day coming that no one will say that any more, but simply sigh at the tyranny of time.

I had friends in high school who have utterly vanished.  One of them, one of my closest, I kept touch with through the early years at Ohio State, where we’d both chosen to go.  Sometimes we’d drive around Columbus in my red Firebird with another friend, blasting Rush.  But then I made other friends, and we lost touch.  I can see him dimly through social media, at the other side of the continent, and 20 years ago, I discovered a blog that revealed just how different his path had become.  I’d love to catch up with him, but he’s likely gone to me now.  A friend request has gone unanswered. 

They’re building a new high school.  They will tear the old one down, and the physical presence of the place will vanish.  I have likely already driven by it for the last time, unknowing.  Yes, there are memories, but the physical bonds of place are now loosening as well.  

I remember that last night, that ceremony, that stage, the party afterwards, and how none of us knew then that there would be a point, somewhere in the distant future, when the lights would start to dim, and we would look back on those days, preserved in photos and books, and wonder at the passage of time.  How did that come to be?  What would we do if we could all, just once, stand there on the cusp of what was to come, but this time knowing how our paths would diverge?  

Let’s go for a drive
And see the town tonight
There’s nothing to do
But I don’t mind when I’m with you
This town’s so strange
They built it to change
And while we sleep
We know the streets get rearranged
With my old friends
It was so different then
Before your war
Against the suburbs began
Before it began
Now the music divides us into tribes
You grew your hair
So I grew mine
You said the past won’t rest
Until we jump the fence and leave it behind
With my old friends
I can remember when
You cut your hair
I never saw you again
Now the cities we live in
Could be distant stars
And I search for you
In every passing car
The night’s so long…
Yeah, the night’s so long
I’ve been living in the shadows of your song
Been living in the shadows of your song
In the suburbs I
I learned to drive
And you told me we’d would never survive
So grab your mother’s keys we leave tonight
But you started a war
That we can’t win
They keep erasing all the streets we grew up in
Now the music divides us into tribes
You choose your side
I’ll choose my side
All my old friends
They don’t know me now
All my old friends
Are staring through me now
All my old friends
They don’t know me now
All my old friends
They don’t know me now
All my old friends wait