My time here in China is coming to a close within this next month. I’ve started my usual process of making lists of things to buy and pack and eat for the last time. This time, however, i’ve also started a new practice of trying to really see and appreciate everything around me. Let me explain.
This sounded much better in my head this morning when I went for a walk around the campus where I live, but I was high from lack of sleep, wax berries and strong coffee. I’ll try to put my ramblings to words that normal people can understand.
Like most people i’ve lived in multiple places throughout my life. Most of my life growing up was spent in my childhood home in Ohio. When I think of home, this house is what comes to mind. The shaggy brown carpet of the upstairs hallway, the centipede haunted basement, the fireplace that I’ve spent countless hours sitting in front of listening to my Pop tell me to move because i’m ‘blocking the heat’. But i’ve also lived in many more places that I called home, even if it was just for a few months. Like a lot of people I lived in a dorm room here for a year, an apartment there for a year. Unlike a lot of people, however, I have also lived/stayed in a lot of places abroad. It is from living in all these places that I have come to realize the necessity of taking the time before you leave a places and appreciating, really appreciating how it makes you feel.
Every place you go has a certain feel to it, and a certain smell. I place a lot of importance on smells; on how they make you feel. The smell of a coffee shop is comforting, the scent of the air right before it begins to rain is en lifting, the way certain plastic smells reminds me of my childhood when I used to play with those little green army men. Every place has a certain smell, especially every place you live. Like when you go to a friend’s house and it smells different. Not bad, just different. You don’t notice it until you have been gone for awhile and then you come back and you smell it again. It isn’t just the smell though. When you live somewhere there is a certain way that it feels, and a way it makes you feel when you walk in that door. The funny part it that most people don’t recognize it until they’ve already left. When you come back to visit that place and you get a rush of emotions when you walk in. Not just memories, but feelings.
I lived in this one house for a year during my junior year of college. It was a beaten up, college house with giant spiders, and broken front porch stairs, but after I moved out and went back for a visit I got an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. I missed everything about it, but most of all I missed the way I felt when I lived there. I missed ordering pizza late at night and watching T.V. with the guys in the living room. I missed playing beer pong in the filthy basement. I missed falling asleep to the sound of video games and the angry shouts of the guys when they lost. Sounds weird, I know, but it was oddly comforting. I didn’t know that, though, until I moved out and had a hard time falling asleep in the quiet. I felt all of these things when I stepped back into the house after I moved out. I missed these things because I didn’t appreciate them when I had them.
My last semester at Kent, I lived in a one bedroom apartment. I only lived there for 6 months, and it was a dinky, little first floor apartment with hardly any natural light and a tiny kitchen, but it was mine. It was just me and my sweet baby kitty, Isis, and it was awesome. I miss this place too. I miss coming home from a full day of work and school and falling into bed with just Isis curling up next to me and no one to judge me for eating nachos in bed. I know the cat isn’t going to, I clean up her poop. Who is she to judge? This place too I didn’t appreciate until it was too late, and I was packing up my things to move out. It was over before I could stop and take the time to look around me and fix into my memory how that place made me feel.
Now that i’m leaving China in a month, I’ve decided to really try and see everything around me. I’ve lived in enough places to know that how I feel now, in this place and this time is special and i’ll never feel this exact way every again. This morning I walked a route around campus that i’ve walked a hundred time before, but this time I didn’t just breeze past everything. I really saw it. I watched the fish in the pond and walked through the empty stadium. I breathed deep and tried to fix to memory the way it smells. Although, I probably just inhaled pollution, if i’m being honest.
The point i’m trying to make here is that no matter how briefly you live in a place, no matter if you didn’t enjoy it or if you did, each place leaves an impression. The only way to stop yourself from pining for those lost times is to appreciate them while you have them. Everyone is guilty of taking things for granted, myself included. Do yourself a favor and the next time you walk in the door to the place you live or walk down your street, stop and take a moment to take it all in. Even if it is your first tiny dorm room with your roommate who leaves the milk in the fridge for too long, think about how you feel right in that moment when you take your first breath inside the door. Think how free and independent and happy you are. You’ll never feel the exact same way again. Appreciate it while you can.
Until next time, explorers, never forget,
Adventure is out there, so never stop exploring.