Yesterday my pink Camelbak water bottle dropped onto a slab of concrete. It was as if it happened in slow motion; the water bottle was loosed from my hand, it plummeted full of water to the gray ground below. It hit with a dull thud and prompt explosion. Water gushed from the newly formed stress fracture, which had opened at the bottom edge of the container and snaked its way around the thin, pink belly. When I collected the injured vessel, the remaining water sloshed and oozed from the fissure. It was still dripping when my coworker opened the door and remarked, “What happened?” She was focused on the puddle of water spreading across the concrete. I told her simply, “I dropped my water container.” I held it up as as if it were an item for show and tell. Her response was simple, “That sucks.” Walking inside the door, dripping bottle in hand, I remarked with a plain voice, “It does.”
But my sympathetic coworker didn’t understand just how much this event ‘sucked.’ That water bottle was given to me by a coworker from a previous job. It was a bridal shower gift. Whenever I looked at the pink container I remembered the shower, I remembered times at my previous job spent with those friends. We’ve somewhat lost contact now, but I know how to get in touch, just as they know how to find me. We haven’t needed to be in contact, but it was convenient to know that we could; we’d probably pick up right where we left off. In other words, it was a place of limbo, not in the past anymore, but not maintaining a relationship in the present. In that moment, as the water gushed and spread in every direction, my mind knew what my heart had been telling me for too long: it’s time to let go.
There were cheerful memories from that previous job: impromptu antics of coworkers, time spent with exotic animals, days spent teaching inside while the weather broiled outside. There is nothing I regret about having that job for the years during high school, college then post college. But it is also my past. Years and years of growing up, all of those same people watching as I went from a high school student to a college intellectual to a graduate who realized I knew so much less than what I thought. It was a second home. Eventually I did leave due to my husband needing my help with his web design business. I left the nest, but I took mementos with me. The friendships, the pictures, the items such as my water bottle and I held on to them tightly. Every year since, the friendships have begun to change and spread apart. There are children in lives that previously were full of parties. The pictures have begun to fade or have been hidden under layers of folders on my external drives. The items have disappeared from being packed, unpacked, packed, unpacked. Most had lost their meaning except the water bottle. It was the lasting relic that was used daily both during my previous job and beyond it.
But it had been keeping me rooted in the past and I wonder if even relics know it is time to move on. My hand had a firm grip on the container, but it fell anyways, sacrificing itself and the water across the pavement. It knew it was time to stop peering over my shoulder looking at how it used to be and, instead, to look at what is to be.
I would be lying if I said that a piece of my heart didn’t ached all of yesterday as I spent the six hours at work without the bottle by my side. I could say I wanted water, which I did, but you and I both know it was about more. The water bottle was a token that could open my memories and for the first time in six years, it was no longer there. It has moved on like everything else into the past.
Now I need to find a new water bottle, preferably one that isn’t pink. It will hold with it all the potential for the next leg of the journey. What will it store? Memories of my husband traveling through medical school? Memories of times spent writing my next books? Memories of children entering our lives? The pink bottle was able to witness the start of our marriage, the start of a new career, the opening of businesses, but it also saw heartache. Many newlywed fights, unfortunate job loss when the market turned sour, lost friendships, struggles that accompany any life. Six years of life all in one bottle, but it is time for the new to enter and in so many areas, I am ready for the new to begin. But it is still painful to say goodbye to the past and begin again.
I will go tomorrow to pick out the new bottle. I truly hope I can find a turquoise one, that would be my favored color. Turquoise is the color of tropical waters, it is found most commonly in my art. I can make room for a new turquoise item in my life. It will be a fine new addition for the next six years. Let’s hope it is ready for what’s in store because it has some might deep milliliters to fill.