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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

On Change, Or, Dear Carl

Hi, coz.

It’s been a while. 83 days, actually, give or take a few depending on when you read this. You called me the night before I left, remember? Well, I do. So it seemed appropriate to write to you the day I leave again. That night, we talked a lot, about the important things: your new girlfriend who wasn’t really a girlfriend, what we thought the climate in Nepal would be like (we were both wrong, by the way), how I was feeling at the moment (angry about something or other), and how things would be different when I came back. How I might be different.

I don’t actually remember exactly what was said, but let’s say for the sake of dialogue that it went something like this:

“I don’t know how to feel,” I might have confessed, because I definitely didn’t. “I just keep telling myself none of this matters–I’m going to Nepal tomorrow. And I probably won’t be the same person when I come back.”

“You definitely won’t,” you might have said. “You’re going to Nepal for three *expletive* months. You can’t not change.”

And I probably said,  “Yeah, you’re probably right.” Then I said: “Dude, I’m going to Nepal tomorrow.”

“You’re going to Nepal,” you agreed, laughing.

“I’m going to Nepal!”

I went to Nepal.

It’s been an amazing experience. Seriously. I write this on the day I depart for home, to 99% guarantee that I don’t get bitten by a rabid goat or otherwise redefine my time here through some mishap. I’ve met people who belong to another world, been places that belong in postcards, and felt feelings that probably belong to somebody else.

We’ve spent the last few days here at the Bhaktapur Guest House, which is much more comfortable than it seemed at the beginning of the trip, reflecting on the last twelve weeks. It can be painful at times, that much focused hindsight– it feels like looking over your shoulder for hours at a time.

I’m getting off track. The prompt they’ve given us is to write a letter to a loved one, and you were the first person I thought of, for better or worse. For what it’s worth, you’re one of the voices in my head that shares it’s opinion on just about everything and everyone I see here. Which reminds me how much I miss talking to you, and how much I can’t wait to go home.

But I’m scared, too. Can I tell you something, Carl? Because you’re the closest thing to a brother I’ve ever had. I think I could admit something to you that I could never tell my parents, or my sisters, or my friends; at least, not directly. The closest I could come is posting this letter online, and never acknowledge it. That’s the kind of dumb drama I go for.

The thing is this: I do not know if I have changed. I do not know if I can, in the way I crave. I wanted the whole of my being to be obliterated and remade when I was here. I wanted to come back somebody else, somebody better, or even worse–but I wanted to not be me.

What makes change hard for the human mind to deal with is not what change brings. It’s the parts the change doesn’t reach, the clay that isn’t moved or resculpted, the crusty, gross bits that stay the same even as the rest moves on. I wanted to change completely, but I forgot something important, or maybe it took me until now to see it: that change is slow, and painful, and incomplete.

Dave, the instructor with dreads, says that change is impossible to read without a clear point of reference. Without the control-test Izzy who never came to Nepal, I just don’t know which parts are different, which parts are the same. Maybe the people I love can point them out to me, but I will never know the distance traveled from point A to B–just that one is different from the other.

Sorry, Carl, if this is disjointed. I find it hardest to write when one’s life is actually worth writing about. It’s easiest in a basement bedroom surrounded by the evidence of how unremarkable your own existence actually is.

Where am I going with this? I don’t know. Only that nothing ever changes completely, and nothing ever stays the same. The lama we learned from taught that all times are now, which makes sense, except that now is most definitely not all times. I don’t get to come back a new person, just a newer person.

Is that enough?

You can tell me, Carl. I’ll be home soon. I’ll call you. We’ll chill. It’ll be nice.

I can’t wait to hear how you’ve changed.