Where our scream-singing failed to cover up the overplayed country songs, laughter did. We were driving up the mountain— all curving roads, blaring heat and melting snow. I closed my eyes, just for a second, breathing in the moment as deeply as my lungs would allow.
As soon as it had begun, it disappeared, replaced by another. Like the recollection of a ray of sun, that instant became ingrained in my memory, down to the very whisper of a melody.
Life is transient. Regardless of want, regardless of need, everything is destined to end. Beginnings are pure, sure, but an ending’s finality leaves behind something far more significant: an appreciation of the past and a hope for the future.
Over winter break, my friends and their families brought me along on their annual trip to the Smoky Mountains. My friends had been countless times and seemed shocked at every little thing that impressed me (although, to be fair, impressing me is not that difficult). I, on the other hand, found it hard to believe that every little thing did not dazzle them.
One morning, I awoke to a freezing room, stolen covers and a very-dazzling, growing blanket of white stretching across the horizon. That day held a whirlwind of red noses, snowballs and beginner-level-guitar chords hummed along to by the fire. That night, however, held a lifetime.
Almost like a dream, we ran from the comfort of the cabin in our bathing suits and leaped into the steaming hot tub, only to get right back out, watch our breath billow into the heavens and stack the edges with snow. It would be gone come morning and we wanted to truly witness it, truly embrace it, even if just for a while longer. Stars sprinkled the night sky, joyful screams bounced off the trees and cold air fueled my lungs, waking me from whatever dream to which I had succumbed.
As chills ran through my body, ignorant of the warmth I felt from within, I realized that the night could not last forever. It might continue for hours, for years, but not forever. While laughter echoed around me, I realized that I was the only person in that cabin who recognized each moment for what it was: fleeting, a memory in the making.
Everyone else had an unspoken promise of redemption. No matter what happened during that week, regardless of disappointment or satisfaction, they would have another chance for years to come. I, however, did not. That tradition… it was not mine. That cabin… I had no ownership. That town… I did not recognize. Every word spoken, every sight seen, every step taken held the weight of the first and, quite possibly, the last.
With that weight, came value. Sure, my friends enjoyed themselves. They laughed as hard as I did, saw what I did and met who I did, but, unlike them, I savored each moment as though I would never taste it again. Because I might not.
I made a mental note of every detail, every shared sweatshirt, every hastily learned dance, every song stuck in all of our heads at once and every waiter that could not help but to laugh at us. Every passing second became a memory, each sweeter than the last.
Every instant accompanied a vow of the future. It was as though every laugh we shared constituted one yet to come. With each inside joke, it seemed more likely that many more would follow, both during that particular adventure and long after.
Now, life refuses to cease reminding me that yes, it is transient. With every beginning comes an end. But, sometimes, recognizing an ending forces me to appreciate each experience that much more. Sometimes, a single, romanticized car ride becomes the exact lesson that I need to learn.