Wasted Time

Well baby, there you stand

With your little head, down in your hand
Oh, my God, you can’t believe it’s happening again
Your baby’s gone, and you’re all alone
And it looks like the end.

And you’re back out on the street.
And you’re tryin’ to remember.
How do you start it over?
You don’t know if you can.
You don’t care much for a stranger’s touch,
But you can’t hold your man.

You never thought you’d be alone this far down the line
And I know what’s been on your mind
You’re afraid it’s all been wasted time

The autumn leaves have got you thinking about the first time that you fell
You didn’t love the boy too much, no, no, you just loved the boy too well,
So you live from day to day, and you dream about tomorrow, oh.
And the hours go by like minutes and the shadows come to stay
So you take a little something to make them go away
And I could have done so many things, baby
If I could only stop my mind from wonderin’ what
I left behind and from worrying ’bout this wasted time

Oh, another love has come and gone
Oh, and the years keep rushing on
I remember what you told me before you went out on your own:
“Sometimes to keep it together, we got to leave it alone.”
So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine
And maybe someday we will find, that it wasn’t really wasted time.

-the Eagles

I remember first hearing this song, after my year in Greece was complete and I had traveled the islands with friends, explored Turkey from the southern tip of the mainland all the way to Istanbul, on buses that coughed out toxic exhaust and passengers who smoked cheap, unfiltered cigarettes – their smell permeating the air we breathed, the clothes we wore. I was traveling with my first boyfriend – someone I had met on our program and I had spent months resisting. This was our final time together before he would return to the states and I would head first to Switzerland and then to Paris to meet with friends and my roommate from college. I truly believed I loved him, that I would spend my life with him, but don’t we all feel that way when we first fall head over heels for someone?

Turkey was magical and I have dreamed of returning since the moment I left – the smells, the people, the history that lay around every corner. But most of Europe and the Middle East hold this magic, and my soul feels more at home around the ancient stones and pathways than it does in this country, where strip malls and Walmart dominate our lives.

After we parted, with me foolishly thinking he would wait for me in the States (he was my “first” love, and those are always hard to imagine ending), I flew to Switzerland to visit my host family I had lived with when I was a teen in high school and had participated in an exchange program that led me to them. My host-sister had moved from her parents home, closer to Zurich where she was a flight attendant and I spent hours walking the roads and trails that surrounded the small town where she lived with her fiancee, in the suburbs of the city. I had a Walkman then (not that many people know what those are anymore) and a well-worn cassette tape of the Eagles, and when I discovered this song, I listened to it over and over until I feared I would erase the magnetic properties of it. I wandered those roads, pondering my future, my recent past, my emerging adulthood and what would happen when I was forced to get on the plane and return to the States. It was the first time the depression that would become a lingering shadow in my life would rear its head. I tried to imagine the relationship with my boyfriend would last once I was back in the USA. If it didn’t – would it all have been wasted time?

I suppose that is the first time the question ever came into my head. I had spent a year of my life away from my family, away from their expectations and fully lived my life in the vein I wanted to. I had no regrets. Yes, I had fucked up from time to time during that year, but I knew I was learning from mistakes, and being away from the pressures of what had always been placed on me, allowed me to let go of the guilt and move on.

I would spend another month in Paris, and then in the south of France in the lovely town of Antibes on the coast of the Riviera and I couldn’t imagine life getting any better than it was at the time. My roommate and I rented a small apartment and took the Côte d’Azur by storm. It was a heady party and I never wanted it to end. But like everything in life, it did. Too soon, I found myself on a plane back to Boston, sitting in the smoking section (they still allowed that 20 years ago) downing champagne and chain-smoking to alleviate the anxiety and depression I felt about leaving a place where I had had the freedom to be myself. Where I had started to discover who I was.

When I got back to my parent’s home, in the city I had hated all through high school, I could feel the noose tighten almost immediately around my neck. I did not fit in. Culture shock shook me to my core. And waiting for me, in a plain envelope, was my “Dear Jane” letter from that boy, who had been back weeks before me, and determined that life was simply too complicated back in the States (he may have used the term “real world”) to continue what had begun in Greece. I was devastated. I think when you lose your “first” love, you always are because you know deep inside, you didn’t love the boy too much, no, no, you just loved the boy too well, farewell…

These words played around and around in my head, as I lay in my old bed at night, staring at the ceiling:

I remember what you told me before you went out on your own:
“Sometimes to keep it together, we got to leave it alone.”
So you can get on with your search, baby, and I can get on with mine
And maybe someday we will find, that it wasn’t really wasted time.

I never felt it was wasted time with him. I felt cheated. I felt I had been given no say in the ending of our relationship, and yet I knew that it had been as if we had lived in a time capsule during our year abroad and reality, senior year in college, jobs were now pushing him away from me. So I went out on my own, I got on with my search baby, as I am sure he got on with his. And as the years progressed he became a distant memory.

Now the song radiates as an homage to my late husband. Especially when the hours go by like minutes and the shadows come to stay. Because that’s when I take a little something, to make it go away. I am getting better at letting him go. But it was not what I imagined my life to be when I was walking the dirt roads next to the pastures of grazing cows whose bells rang merrily, in that small town in Switzerland, listening to this song. I never imagined I would have a disease about to erupt in my head that would stay with me for life and cause unimaginable anguish. I never imagined finding someone who completed me and connected with me in a way that I no longer questioned my place in this world. But it happened. And then he was gone.

But not one minute of my time with him was wasted. And I will always be thankful for that, even as the search for myself continues in the wake of losing him – how do I start it over? Most days, I don’t know if I can. I do have a wonderful man, but I wonder how long I can hold onto this one. He does not understand me, and the insanity that rages in my brain most days, and at times the weight of that is too much. But I suppose a part of me, mostly dormant, but with the ability to emerge, will always pick myself up and move on, if that is what it comes to.

© Sorrow & Kindness


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