POV: Ghosts.

Monday, December 16, 2013

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV will focus on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.

I arrived in LA for the holidays on Saturday night. My journey began early, with a walk in the snow to Penn Station. It ended nearly eleven hours later, after a layover in San Francisco during which I ate bad chocolate and watched hours of the news on mute.

Half-dreaming as the plane touched down in Burbank, I remembered my brother and me, as kids, arguing about who would get the window seat on our yearly trips to Tokyo. Both of us wanted to be first to see the city lights below, which seemed infinite and vast, and looked not only like stars, but like an entire universe.

Saturday evening, on the ride home from the airport, I passed my high school, nestled inconspicuously among the trees on Magnolia Boulevard. That place looks familiar, I found myself thinking, before realizing, foolishly, that I’d spent years of my life there. 

There was a bench out front where I’d sat with my friends hundreds of times - watching traffic, waiting for rides, drinking coffee and pretending to like it. It was still there, ten years later, and, squinting, I could see myself at 16, sitting there - smiling, gesturing, ghostlike. 

Riding on Yair’s handlebars this summer, I’d caught glimpses of familiar cafes and shops and street corners and stretches of grass, and thought, this is where I wrote that essay. That was where Megan and I had drinks and wrote poems about sprinkles. Here's where I met that artist. I remember saying, “Traveling through New York City is like seeing ghosts.” Zipping past, my feet dangling, I could see myself in all of those places, with all of those people, if only for a moment.

In our twenties, people come and go. Friendships end. Relationships evolve and dissolve. We enter each other’s worlds for weeks or months at a time, never to speak again. Yet we can’t help wondering what's happened, or where these people have gone. We’re haunted by living ghosts.


My sister-in-law once said while looking at my niece, then three or four years old: “As a parent, you’re constantly letting go. They become toddlers, and you lose the baby. They become little girls, and you lose the toddler.”

I’m not the same person I was years - or even months - ago. I’ve lived in different places, made different friends, discovered new interests, changed my priorities. In tiny, impalpable increments, I’ve grown into someone new. I’ve lost the 22-year-old, and the 25-year-old; the 26- and 27-year-old, too. But I see her now and then, tearing up in coffee shops, riding a bike for the first time, fretting under trees in the park.

As I write this, I realize it’s a hard phenomenon to put to words. It’s a hard thing to explain, that as I’ve gotten older, I often confuse dreams with memories. That sometimes, day-to-day life feels like an out-of-body experience. That when I think about it, I can’t tell if it’s been decades or months or minutes or seconds since I thought that time passed slowly, that people were permanent, that the lights of one city reflected the entire world.
You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, here. Thank you so much for reading, as always.


dee said...

Oh my gosh. THIS to this whole post. I had an emotional breakdown earlier today (at work no less) and I had be firm w/ myself and say let it all go. Holding on to it (whatever it may be) can be so tiring at times.

ps. I know I've said it before but I'll say it again, this is such a lovely series! I look forward to each & every post and I think I will have to go back and re-read all of them once I am full settled in my new home! :)

Rachel @ Existation said...

I feel the same way about my hometown in Minnesota. I often wonder how different it would be if I had stayed there...if I would still see the years slip by in the familiar places and things, or if I wouldn't notice it as much because I wouldn't have had a chance to become detached from them in the first place. I guess there's no way of knowing for sure. Lovely and relatable as usual, friend =]

Sarah Noel said...

I loved this.
I sometimes don't realize all that's lost until I'm way, way out of it, if that makes sense. And then usually what reminds me of what's gone is exactly as you said--it's like a sense or a presence of the old me. Sometimes it's a welcome nostalgia, sometimes it's chilling.

angela said...

Beautiful writing. Time, loss, big things to capture into words. Well done.

Nicole said...

I like the part about seeing the ghosts in New York City. I guess I'm at the point of life where I should being seeing future ghosts... where to find them is the question.

Anonymous said...


sherry said...

very inspiring pov. beautifuly written, as usual.love it.

Anonymous said...

I've experienced this a lot over the years. I feel nostalgic for past lives that are only warm because of the shelter and comfort I felt then. It is scary to always be moving forward because you never know where you're going to end up.

Fräulein Katie said...

beautiful. i love reading your writing.

Camila Faria said...

I'm feeling particularly nostalgic today and now this amazing post... You read my mind Shoko.

Paw said...

confusing dreams with memories. i'm haunted by that phrase.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Completely and utterly yep.

Raquel R. said...

Time- beautifully portrayed by your words.

yvonne said...

you have the most beautiful writing voice, shoko.

i have lots of those ghosts of experiences you described. i love those.

enjoy time with your family and happy happy holidays!

Kelly said...

stunning stunning stunning.

Nicholle said...

You're just a stone's throw from where I live! Enjoy your stay. And this post could not have been more timely; it hearkens to frequent moments I've had as of late imagining me meeting myself at all different ages together, eating fish and chips in a loud Morro Bay restaurant full of carousing and suspended in time and space, reminiscing with the high school me and helping the 6th grade me with her math and shedding tears and laughing with them all. I can't be the only one who wonders about that kind of stuff!

Anonymous said...

This piece so poignantly captures the complexity of life as a twenty-something-year-old. For a majority of this decade of my life I feel like I have been in constant transition. You voiced this feeling beautifully. Bravo.

Shoko said...

Thank you so much, everyone!

Dee, I hope you're feeling better!



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