Facebook keeps reminding me it was exactly five years ago I was on Santorini. Exactly five years ago today, it tells me, you uploaded a picture of a pomegranate! (And what a gorgeous, deeply orange pomegranate it was.) Exactly five years ago yesterday, you were sitting at a medicore restaurant, run by an absolute lech, getting drunk on a litre jug of cheap, local white wine. And it was wonderful. Baking hot and wonderful.
Five years ago, you were 25 and you had just left Australia with a few thousand dollars and a Working Holiday Visa for Germany burning a hole in your pocket. Five years ago you were about seven kilograms lighter and had one bag stuffed with summer dresses and a DSLR camera someone stole from your room when they climbed a wall and snuck in through the window while you were at work. Bastards. You were six months off meeting the man you would eventually marry, in a city you hadn’t even arrived in. Five years ago there was no indication of how it would all look now.
I know the way the narrative goes. I was once a young, carefree thing, and now, as a thirty year old, with a baby and a husband, I have ‘settled down’ (such an irritating phrase, said by others with such certainty of your immobility and stagnation). My glory days behind me, I am now sentenced to look back on photos of Greek summers with a sense of loss. Loss of my freedom, loss of my more impressive 25 year-old body, loss of a certain lifestyle.
But what a wholly unsatisfying narrative that is! For one thing, it makes erroneous assumptions about the fullness of life in this very moment, and conveniently forgets the less fun parts of life then. For another, it invites tedious comparisons that are nonsensical to make. It demands I look at life now and consequently yearn for life then, as if life then and now are two different beasts, not one and the same, two spots on a continuing spectrum. It doesn’t allow for the wonder of natural progression, of movement; it tells you to look away from the rich enjoyment of decisions, both conscious and unconscious, coming to fruition. To ‘settle down’ is perceived as a cessation of movement, and that is where this narrative gets it so very wrong; we never stop moving.
My daughter turned one yesterday. Time has never shown itself to be quite so cruelly quick. As photo after photo of that Santorinian summer show up on Facebook, and I fall down the rabbit hole of cheap wine and cave houses and the endless drama that seemed to follow our mercurial lives on that sun-baked island, sitting next to me popping individual peas into her mouth with a perfect pincer grip, is my most beautiful reminder of movement, of fruition. Regardless of what I did after that summer, of what any of us did, none of us would ever be able to go back and recapture precisely those three months where rooms were cheap, empty, and dusty, and you lived off tips and free drinks. Movement. Fruition. These forces don’t allow for repetition, and rightly so.
I will never have the body I did at 25, just like I will never have the one I have now, at 30. I will never be back on Santorini with the bag stuffed with dresses and Working Holiday Visa burning a hole in my pocket. But I will be there again with my family, and we will create our own memories, that years later will show the path from then to now. Facebook will keep reminding me of times in my life from which I have moved on; next year it will be my daughter’s first birthday, an event that I find myself clutching quite tightly. And while our roots in this soil are deep, they can always come up, and where we are now – as people who have settled down – is not where we will be in a few years time.
Because we don’t ever really ever settle. We all keep moving; it’s all we know how to do.