I recently spent the evening with some old friends, watching videos and reminiscing on the four months that we spent in Italy during our junior year of college. We laughed a lot as we watched ourselves on the screen, seeing and doing things for the first time all over again – things which are now videos and memories. And with those memories came a flood of emotion. As I watched my past-self, I felt once again how she felt in that time and place.
Nostalgia can kind of be like a drug, but I don’t think that’s entirely what was going on that night. As I watched myself, I remembered how much more content I was. During those months, I wanted the days and weeks to drag on – I never wanted to leave. Our lives in Italy consisted of cooking, drinking, dancing, adventuring, reading, and occasionally going to class. We had no real obligations or responsibilities. In the years since, I haven’t been so carefree.
Experiencing some of those feelings again that night, I wanted to go back. And at some point it occurred to me: I can. There’s nothing significant keeping me here. I could quit my job, drain my bank account, and head back to Europe for a season. I could spend my days writing and adventuring, not worrying about my household or career. It would be the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever done, but it – and I – would be so interesting.
I have significant theological objections to transience, so I don’t entertain these ideas on a whim, nor do I take them lightly. Still, the temptation is there.
Driving home that night, I tried to digest these feelings a little bit and move on. My city’s skyline came into view, and I felt that familiar rush of pride. (I’ve seen so many beautiful things, yet I’m such a sucker for Philly’s skyline). The radio played in the background: “we’re far, far from home and we’re so happy,” and the juxtaposition of sight and sound was striking. I just kept driving. What else was I to do?
That was two months ago. I’m still here.
St. Augustine begins his Confessions beautifully: “For Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until the rest in Thee.” I remind myself of this often, because restlessness is easy and popular, but also unavoidable, and inescapable. We will never be fully content, fully happy, in Philly or Europe, as a barista or a CEO. Outside of the Kingdom, our hearts are restless. All we can do is wait until we rest in Thee.