Here is another installment of student writing, titled “The Way,” by a senior majoring in international relations. Because it mentions weed, a perennially delicate subject (when will I learn?), the author of this piece has asked me to redact her name and photo. I will mention only that the picture showed four very cute young people sitting on a futon.
Anyone could see the road that they walk on is paved in gold
It’s always summer, they’ll never get cold
They’ll never get hungry
They’ll never get old and gray
You can see their shadows wandering off somewhere
They won’t make it home
But they really don’t care
They wanted the highway
They’re happy there today, today….
There are some moments when, even though everything seems perfect, you still feel some defect, but you don’t know what it is. And then there are moments when you feel the happiness from the bottom to the top and you don’t know exactly why you are so happy—you don’t know if it’s the alcohol, the weed, the music, the sun or just the people around.
I exactly remember the moment when this picture was taken, because it was probably one of the happiest moments of my life, for no reason. Actually, that summer I had lots of these moments. With the people you can see in the picture and the ones you can’t but who were there, we used to live like a colony—not only over the weekends but also during the week, like a big happy family, or maybe like the 21st-century version of flower children. It was the summer of 2010, just before we all met with the very early midlife crisis of our lives. (I call it the disease of 21st century’s young people—the disease of this unhappy and unsatisfied generation of mine).
I’ve known these people—both the ones in the picture and the other seven who are not—since I was 11 or so. Most of us went to the same high school, sitting next to each other every day for eight years in the very cold classrooms of Austrian High School which we like to call “prison.” After high school, the boys left Istanbul for college in Vienna, and the girls studied in their hometown. Often people don’t see each other for years after graduation, no matter how close they were in high school. That was not the case for us. None of us was willing to let go of childhood—not yet.
When that picture was taken, we were in the summerhouse of İlker who is not in the picture. The house was in Burgaz Island, one of the Princes’ Islands near Istanbul: a perfect destination for a weekend getaway for eleven young people. I remember we started drinking with our first steps onto the island, and kept drinking until we left. It was a good thing that we were eleven people: everyone remembered a different time period, so afterwards we could get an idea of the vacation as a whole.
I don’t why we drank so much in those days. Did we want to forget everything? Did we want to be lost in moments of aimlessness? Were we aware that this freedom, this comfort would be taken from us and that we had to grow up soon? If we were really having such a good time, why did we have to give ourselves over to alcohol until we forgot everything?
Actually, it has been only one and a half year since this picture was taken, but even one month can bring enormous changes in you if you are in your early twenties, so you can’t give a meaning to something you did a very short time ago. That was what I was thinking most of the time this summer. Those eleven people whom I call “lifesavers” weren’t around so much, and when I look at all the fun we had last summer, all the nights and days we spent as a colony, I could not understand why we had given up on being so close this year. Then I realized how much things had changed in our lives, although they seem the same.
Do you see the girl sitting next to me with a super-cute face? She is my lifelong friend Aslı. When that picture was taken, she was dreaming of being a yoga instructor, going to India and learning yoga. Once she wake up after a very long night , one of the nights we drank till death, and tried to do some weird yoga moves while she was still drunk and when we asked her what the fuck she was doing she said: “I am greeting the sun.” It was a hilarious moment for the rest of us. But life never leads us the way we planned. Aslı lost her father to cancer in October 2010 and had to postpone her yoga dreams and jump into corporate life to gain money and secure her livelihood.
The boy sitting next to the boy next to Aslı is my other lifelong friend, Can. Can, Aslı and I were like brother and sisters. We were the only ones who weren’t involved in any romantic or sexual relationship with each other or with anyone from the crew. While I call the ten people lifesavers, I call Asli and Can my life. Without them I wouldn’t have survived the nervous breakdown I went through a couple of years ago.
Nowadays, I feel the distance between us. Life, not alcohol, is making us drunk and lost now. There might not be any big changes—no marriages, not even any relationships, no moving abroad, but just the war of taking the reins of life into our own hands and, more importantly, how to do “it.” Maybe even the unpleasant feeling of not wanting “it,” but the awareness that we need to find a way to do “it.” The fear that we can’t manage to do “it.”
The concept of “it” keeps changing. At the beginning it was a job which would provide us a secure life. Later it turned into happiness, and now we are all stuck between a corporate beast that will swallow our characters, versus a happy simple life that we know won’t satisfy us after some point.
I know neither the answers to any of my questions, nor where any of us will end up in ten years. All I know is that we won’t have the empty minds or simple happiness of the moment in which this picture was taken. It does not break my heart, not at all. There will be more moments to share: moments of victory, moments of defeat, moments of growing up… as soon as we figure out how to deal with “it”.
They drank up the wine, they got to talking
they now had more important things to say
and when the car broke down they started walking
where were they going without ever knowing the way?