Infinite Forevers

Dec. 27, 2022, 11:36 a.m.

I awake to the sound of my roommate’s packing tape ripping and stretching. She is the first of the four to leave. Tomorrow she departs.

Groggy on the bottom bunk, I stare up at the wooden panels that support the bed above me. Next year I won’t have a bunk bed, I think smugly, an upperclassman rite of passage.

My roommate whispers a quiet sorry and mutters something about wrapping up soon. I smile and offer my trademark no worries, and attempt to settle back into my sleep. But as she assembles her boxes, I can’t help but think that we will likely never cross paths again. Not because we dislike each other, but because nothing binds us together beyond our shared frosh dorm experience. We don’t have the same friends, we don’t take the same classes. Even in all its grandeur, Stanford has never felt so vast until now.

But time is accelerated here on The Farm. We operate on 10-week cycles like burning stars with looming expiration dates. Once time is up and we’ve imploded, we pick up the pieces and move on to the next galaxy.

The thought unsettles me for a moment. This person I cohabited with for almost a year would be gone as fast as you can say “packing tape.”

I turn around and shut my eyes.

***

I’ve spent most of my life like this: desperately clinging to the belief that forever is a measure of meaning. That in order to be meaningful, things must last forever.

During this brief out-of-body experience we call college, we meet people who are in our worlds for a short period of time. Then they’re gone. Perhaps forever.

I think back to New Student Orientation (NSO). I’m in my friendly-at-first-glance-and-in-conversation era, meeting more people than I could ever hope to remember. I know it must be the same for nearly everyone else. It’s an onslaught of What’s your name? What’s your major? Where are you from?

Maybe all of us were kidding ourselves. Of course we’ll keep in touch!

I smile to myself now, a barely-seasoned sophomore. Yeah, we didn’t keep in touch.

Still, in the moment my exorbitant socializing filled me with warmth — though I regularly experienced end-of-day burn out — and it symbolized something profound: possibilities. A new world filled with new people, experiences and feelings.

But in a world filled with infinite possibilities, it’s difficult to navigate healthy relationships — with others and yourself — especially when your perceptions of meaning are suddenly challenged and warped by your new environment. Even more so when models of humanity teach us to value longevity. Because in college, things are not built to last forever.

Longevity means stability and stability is survival. From childhood we’re taught to strive for these models.

When people truly love each other, it’s until death do you part. People who know what they want in life follow the same path until they retire. Best friends that get each other stay connected through thick and thin. Because if something is right, why shouldn’t it work out? With effort and intention, shouldn’t things grow and adapt instead of simply just ending? Haven’t you heard that one Ben Platt song, “Grow As We Go?”

So why didn’t those NSO friends stay in contact? Why didn’t your first ethereal Stanford crush last for more than two weeks? Why did your newfound passion for knitting die off? Simply put, why do things end?

You’re at Stanford, for God’s sake! By now, shouldn’t you have learned how to make things last? That’s how you got here in the first place, with hard work and perseverance.

Well, if things never work out, then something must be wrong. Right? Perhaps, then, the fault resides with me. Maybe I don’t try hard enough, or better yet, maybe something below the surface is fractured and I’m just too blind to see it.

Something akin to soot fills my lungs. Maybe I’m a fractured thing.

After facing what feels like failure — time and time again — it is easy to become disillusioned. If things don’t seem to stick around, I should change my expectations. I shouldn’t anticipate longevity. It’s not worth the chronic heartache.

After all, is forever even a reasonable expectation?

In my life, I have one example of forever: my older sisters. But in our case, I realize that forever is relative to our own lives.

A sibling relationship is perhaps the longest relationship a person can have. For one has the potential to spend their entire life knowing a sibling. While my sisters are almost ten years older than me, I have been lucky enough to find friendship and love in their kinship. I hope to know their warmth for many more years to come.

For many families, blood connects and brings people together after time and experience separate them. Do you need a kidney? Ask your sister. Medical history, phone plans, insurance. Holidays and celebrations being some of the biggest built-in family reunions I can think of. Even now living in different cities, my sisters and I are bound to reunite at least twice a year.

Why? Nuclear families are the manifestation of humanity’s desire to endure. Families are meant to stay together, in some sense. Is it always for the best? No, but that’s the model.

Even for those with chosen families, similar expectations of unity hold true and take form. The same doesn’t always follow for friends, for love, for passions.

Then what holds us together?

After a full year of college, I think the answer lies somewhere between time and location. Some things are meant to be, yes. But they are not meant to last.

They reside in that time and place. That could be days, weeks, months, years. Even minutes or seconds. That is up to us to decide. In memories, in songs, in kisses and laughter.

Some things are meant to be just a sunrise in our lives. A brief show of light, before it fades into day. With this concession made, I am no longer jaded about the end of things. On the contrary, I am hopeful.

The bottom line is that love overgrown begins to rot. It’s better to harvest fruit and enjoy its sweetness when the time is right rather than let it remain attached, and slowly wither away to nothing, until all that remains are resentment and disdain.

Some of the most meaningful things in my life — people, love, experiences, passions — have all been fleeting.

In the past I have wanted to hold on to forever. Sometimes I still do. I mourn when I lose people I care about. I shed tears when it seems like time is in favor of everyone else but me.

But it’s become clear that expectations of forever aren’t sustainable and don’t take into account the fluidity of human emotions and circumstances. Life happens. Humans are only mortal, and what we do with our limited time on Earth teeters as close to forever as we can get. Maybe John Green and every manic pixie dream girl had it right. In that moment we were infinite.

Though it may seem exhausting, in a way we really do have an infinite amount of forevers. We feel infinity in the brush of a lover’s hand. In the embrace of a best friend. In the words of a sister. Forever is relative.

We have the opportunity to feel and to love endless times. That infinity is worth more to me than a measure of time in months or years. I don’t think I could handle confronting infinity in its entirety.

I will continue to love and lose and feel, just for the sake of doing those things alone. And maybe some forevers will last longer than the others.

After all, we have infinite forevers.

Chloe Mendoza ʼ25 is the Managing Editor of Podcasts and an Arts and Life fashion/culture columnist. She hails from the raisin capital of the world, Selma, California and is passionate about the intersection of anthropology and social justice. She is a proponent of the em dash and her interests include plants, art, journaling, reading, indie pop and jazz, and fashion. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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