In Loving Memory of Myself

Sebastian Paine - India


April 18, 2017




There's a saying that goes a bit like this: you can never step into the same river twice – for the river will not be the same, nor will you. Many moons ago, I wrote a blog while five or six miles up in the sky, on the way to spend my Global Citizen Year in India. Now, as I find myself once again (still sleep-deprived) on a dark, cramped plane above the Atlantic, this time going the other direction, the river proverb rings truer than ever. I have lived a new life for the past 8 months, and seen myself grow, change, break apart, and rebuild myself. My country, my city, and my community have done the same, especially in the social and political context of the recent election. 

The age-old philosophical question comes to mind: if something changes gradually, bit-by-bit, at what point do we decide that it's no longer what it used to be? There is no set of hard rules or criteria for what makes me "me", so I seem to be without a standard to which I can hold myself and compare. When I set foot in "my" country again, will it be the same one I left? Will I be the same person who left it? My name will still be Sebastian, and once again I will be in the United States. Nominally, nothing has changed. But I imagine few people would hold to that belief. 

Many friends have asked me if I'm excited to return home, but I'm not exactly sure that's what's happening. How can "I" return, if the person who left wasn't me? How can I "return" if the place I land is not the same as that from which I took off? The reality is, I can never go back home. The nouns in that sentence no longer exist as they once did. Henceforth will be another new chapter in my life, with a new setting, new characters, new conflicts. 

Before I (or whoever it was that sat in the seat printed on the boarding pass that bore my name) left in late August, I lay in a grassy courtyard and wrote a letter, addressed to he whom I now call myself. In its somewhat cheesy entirety, it read:

Dear SEBASTIAN,

The things you've seen, done, and learned must be so utterly breathtaking. I can't even imagine how the fires of your curiosity must be burning within you. I wish you could tell me right now about the purpose and meaning you've undoubtedly found, but I suppose I'll just have to wait. 

Today, as I look up at the tatters of blue sky that peer at me through green leaves so full of life, I can almost taste the opportunities in store. Beneath the excitement, of course, are elements of fear and apprehension. But they pale in comparison to the hunger for fulfillment and thirst for knowledge that well up in my soul. Oh, the stories you could tell. 

This is a time if great transition – the pivot from which your life will, most assuredly, truly begin. Breathe every breath, as the best is yet to come. Don't forget your roots, but don't hold back your branches. Let them embrace the open sky and tickle the heavens with loving wonder. 

Were I to sum up how I feel in but a word, it would be this: READY. 

Send me a postcard!

SEBASTIAN

I wish with all my heart I could write back, but I know my note would find no recipient. But hey, closure is overrated. So instead, I share these ramblings with all of you, in loving memory of myself. May he rest in peace. 

Sebastian Paine