August 1, 2009
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain tomiss the future. — John F. Kennedy
One of my earliest memories is of looking out onto my driveway as its gravel surface was being paved over. I was so sad, standing there in the living room clutching a few small stones I had salvaged before the workers arrived. My parents had decided to pave the driveway with smooth, black asphalt for both aesthetic and practical reasons. In my little four-year-old mind I knew that it would be so much better for all sorts of activities like riding bikes and roller-skating. No longer would sidewalk chalk be confined to our two squares of concrete by the front door—now the whole surface of the driveway would be open for creativity. Still, I felt the ache of something familiar being forever changed. I was a very sentimental child and seeing this change made me feel like I was losing a bit of security. In attempts to save familiarity, I gathered a small plastic bucket full of rocks as if gathering pieces of myself. I would hold those rocks in my little hands and remember my first tricycle ride, my daddy’s blue truck and those “rock castles” I used to build with my mom. Standing at the window that day watching the pavers roll over the rest of the rocks, I’m pretty sure I cried.
Rocks have often been used to represent stability, strength, and security. Chevy has used the idea to advertise how dependable their trucks are—”Like a Rock.” Prudential has used them as an emblem of how secure their clients can be in choosing to place their trust in the company. The English word “monument” comes from the Latin word “monere,” meaning “to remind.” Cemeteries are full of rocks set up to mark the lives and deaths of millions of people, in a reminder of what each person meant to those who knew them. In Jewish tradition it is customary to leave a small stone on a gravesite when visiting to represent continuing remembrance for a loved one. Rocks are used as physical milestones because they represent permanence.
Life is full of milestones that measure who we are and where we have been. Growing up, through various sleepovers and mission trips, I became more adaptive and willing to venture into the unknown. One marker for me was when I took a trip to Mexico with my youth group just before my junior year of high school. At that time I could deal with going to a foreign country for a week, but thought I would never be able to move to college. The thought of being stuck in an unfamiliar place among strange people for months and months sounded like a nightmare! But after that week so far away from home, I found that I really loved the freedom that I experienced and I looked forward to the new life at school.
Everything changes and the future moves. We change jobs, buy new clothes and our bodies continually change, decay and renew. There is no possible way to remain completely in the past. So we must come to grips with this reality and focus on a future of hope, making decisions that will carry us to a place where we belong. Sometimes this means taking pieces of our past with us, but sometimes pieces must be left behind—as a river once washed through the Grand Canyon. It is interesting that although rocks are viewed as a strong, cohesive unit they begin as tiny pieces of dirt. We know through studies in geology that rocks are formed when layers of eroded dirt are placed under immense pressure. Over time, the pressure causes the layers of particles to pack together so forcefully that they form rock. Isn’t this like our life experiences? Each moment of our life is a part of a monument to who we are and the pressures that have shaped our character. And even rocks change, whether they become worn down by natural elements or undergo chemical and physical changes, as do the layers that become magma.
I had forgotten about my pail of driveway rocks until my mom mentioned them the other day on the phone. “Look how far you’ve come,” she said. “Do you remember when you saved that bucket of stones from the driveway? Now look at you—you’re making decisions and you applied for an internship in California!” She was right: even if I have not realized it, I have come a long way from where I used to be. I used to hold onto everything and be completely afraid of change. Now I know that I can take who I am into the future, bringing memories with me and embracing the changes as they come. Do I still have those driveway rocks? I vaguely remember tossing them into the garden or the woods a few years after I had saved them. It was most likely during that time in high school when I started cleaning out my memory box, thinking about how my memories had a life apart from their physical reminders and how much work it would be to move all of that stuff from place to place as I looked forward to eventually moving out of my parents’ house. My house. Isn’t it interesting how life changes? When I saved those pieces of gravel that day when I was so small, I think that I hoped to always stay the same. I wanted to always ride down that gravel, hearing the crunch beneath my tricycle tires. I wanted to always feel safe, always be at home.
Now I know that almost nothing stays completely the same, but I still remember the good, simple things, I still have security in my life and I can still come home. I love going home to my family for a weekend visit now and then. Although things have changed: my family has moved to a new house, my sisters now have boyfriends, and my mom and dad have become more like close friends than authoritative figureheads to me. But that is okay with me, because every change is a part of a new monument—a shaping of who I am and who I will be in the future. My faith is secure and my future is bright. I am not discarding my past or what’s important to me, I am just exchanging those rocks for a new reminder.
Allison Shuman is a sophomore from Mentor, Ohio, majoring in Journalism.