Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Time may change me, but I can't trace time.
- David Bowie


I got an email today from my friend Shaun regarding my post on rain. In it he writes:

It's the Brian I remember. The Brian of our young years. I find it hard to ever find poetry in politics, even though many do. Thank heaven for rain.

It got me thinking. First of all, he's right. There isn't much poetry in politics. there is, however, a lot of passion, as I pointed out to him.

Shaun and I have been friends for years -- God, for at least a decade now. When we met, we were both young, and idealistic, and incredibly passionate about all of our beliefs, our pursuits, our aspirations, and in general, about everything we did. He was my best friend. Over the years, our friendship has remained, but has not maintained the same level of closeness. I still love Shaun like a brother, but I don't know him anywhere nearly as well as I once did. Time and distance and circumstances and events have taken their toll on our friendship, even as they have taken their toll on each of us in our own way.

I've never told shaun this, but for the longest time, i blamed him and his circumstances for the change in our friendship. I saw, as an observer, the changes in his demeanor, his attitudes, his personality. And I missed the Shaun I once knew. What I did not see, perhaps COULD not see for the longest time, were the changes in myself.

I suppose one reason that it was easier to notice his changes than my own was the fact that I had to live in my own skin on a daily basis, whereas I only got to see Shaun once every few months at the most, often with years intervening. Gradual changes can seem quite sudden if all you see is the before and after shots.

But eventually I came to recognize the changes in myself as well. And I must confess, some of them disturbed me or disappointed me in ways far worse than anything I observed in my friend. I can't remember when I last wrote poetry. I cry less bitterly, laugh less heartily than I used to. I don't read as often or as voraciously. I look less far off into the distance, and find myself staring more longingly at the past. I think about decisions I've made -- some good, some bad -- and think about the opportunities that I've gained, and the ones I've lost as a result. I think about thinga I'll never have a chance to do again, and others that I never could have done before. I have become all too familiar with regret, but also with wisdom. Perhaps these are the trades we make, the entrance fee into adulthood. Or maybe this is just the vaguely sentimental ramblings of someone who has become something he never expected, and nothing he intended.

When I was in junior high choir, we sang a song that was an arrangement of what has since been one of my favorite poems of all times. But while I've long enjoyed it, it wasn't until recent years that I truly appreciated it. So if you'll forgive any errors, I shall now try to recite it from memory:

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both,
but be one traveller, long I stood,
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, just as fair,
and having perhaps the better claim,
because it was grassy and wanted wear,
but as for that the passing there
had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I save the first for another day,
yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubt if I shall ever get back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a woods, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.

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