Dear Saba: On the move

Saba Nia

Dear Moving Day Saba,

Today, I got stuck in traffic.

It’s not a remarkable occurrence; this happens every day. No matter what roads I take or my destination – whether I’m sleepily cruising down Coldwater or racing along the Pacific Coast Highway – I will undeniably find myself stuck behind a roadblock or string of cars. No amount of preparation or hope will change that.

Our world is filled with stop signs and red lights. And though these obstacles may slow us down from reaching our final endpoints, I think we all need to pause once in a while.

It’s during these moments of hesitation and waiting that our journeys become more than the vague period of time between Point A and Point B. When I drive, I take my foot off the gas to better watch the waves at my side. At a stop, I notice the way the sun’s rays paint homes in soft pastels; as I inch down a congested street, I discover a new favorite song.

Obstacles may impede our ability to reach our goals at times. But as they elongate our time on the road, the journeys themselves can be what we look forward to and what we savor long after we’ve arrived at our destination.

You will fold them gently. Carefully placing your old clothes into your suitcase, you will then glance to the pile at your side – the pile of discarded belongings you will not be taking with you to college. There is so much you will not be able to bring with you, and as you finish packing away your T-shirts and jeans, you will proceed to cover these tokens of your past with those of your future: a winter coat, gloves and thick socks.

When you’ll place your bags into your car, your arms will be weighed down less by your old memories and more by all your plans and dreams for what comes next.

There is a lot of baggage we have, Saba. We carry our pursuit for excellence on our hunched backs and in our dark eye circles. We carry our sadness and frustration in angsty Spotify playlists. We carry our shame and embarrassment in self-deprecating jokes and, more often than not, in closed-off, mausoleum-esque parts of hearts that we ourselves can’t enter.
Going off to a new place is exciting; you can finally enter this new chapter of your life. But what we often fail to realize is that with every journey we embark on, there is baggage we must be mindful of.

The car will be too short. Your mother will be at the wheel, of course. And though she will be enthusiastically telling you how proud of you she is, her lilting, accented voice will betray her true feelings: she is sad and afraid. Your father will be calmly telling her which terminal for her to go to, and though he recites the steps in his characteristically logical and composed manner, his deep eyes will reflect the uncertainty he hides.

Even when they will sit by you, as the plane takes off, you will feel like you’re already thousands of miles away.

You will stare out the window. You will watch the last 18 years of your life fade into impossibly light clouds.

There is a balance you have to strive towards, Saba.

With every new experience comes the temptation to get through it as quickly as possible, to ignore your surroundings in your quest for something you can point to: the fancy diploma, the college sweatshirt, the letter grade, the trophy, the photo to be framed, the satisfied nod when you tell others what you will be one day.

You have to allow yourself to embrace your future openly. And you also have to remember your past, Saba.

But just as you must make sure you don’t lose yourself in the close-minded pursuit of what can be, you must also unburden yourself from the confines of what has been. That is the only way you can enjoy your present and the journey you are about to embark on.

Your parents will be reluctant to go. They will have stayed until you unpacked every suitcase and arranged every detail of your dorm, sighing as you hang both your tank tops and parkas in your closet.

Your new classmates will then knock on your door, stepping forward to introduce themselves. Orientation will begin soon. You will look around; it will be time to go.

You will make your way outside, at first averting your eyes to the glare that bombards you.

In the bright August sun, the silhouettes of your parents and classmates will tangle together. You will hear your name and look up.

You will not be alone.


An Emotional Saba