Seven years ago I was 19, soon to-be 20. I was a second-year student at the university, studying International Relations. I had successfully overcome the panicky transition from living at home in my little town, to mastering "big city" life (not that Oslo is *that* big, but compared to my hometown it's not so bad). I'd made friends - two of which I was living with in a shared apartment (still one of the best living arrangements I've experienced). I still visited my parents a lot, and occasionally worked weekend and summer shifts at the local bookstore there, were I'd earned my first wages when I was still in high school. This was at the time when one of my biggest obsessions - the Harry Potter books - still was an obsession.
Seven years ago I did not know that I would spend a considerable amount of the next seven years abroad. I did not know that I'd be privileged enough to meet so many wonderful people; see such amazing things; taste, smell, feel, experience a plethora (and yet a minimal part) of what the world has to offer. I did not know that the people I then knew would in some cases stay with me, some would drift away, and some whose importance I did not realize then are now among those I hold nearest to heart.
Seven years ago I did not know much about the Middle East. I did not realize how an analytic perspective to a historical problem changes the whole concept and our understanding of it. I did not have the same vocabulary I do now, and I did not know how to best employ the words I did have. Ironically, I had more words then in a language I long since have put in the back of my mind - my French is definitely not one of things that have improved during these years.
Seven years ago I was in the middle of a process of redefining myself. Today I am in the middle of a process of redefining myself. I have constantly been in the middle of that process, and I constantly will. It's a never-ending process, and you're always in the middle of it. To paraphrase Dr. Who (whom I'd never heard of seven years ago, whom I've not yet come to appreciate today, but whom I fully expect to have learned to love sometime within the next seven years) : Time is not linear. As a historian (which I had no idea seven years ago I'd denominate myself) it's tricky not to see time as linear. But as a human being, I find it increasingly easy. We do not know when it will end. We do not remember when it started. Everything in between happens with such vigor and surprise that we cannot manage to sort it into the nice, tidy line we'd like time to be. No one shall be able to convince me that the 24 hours spent dreading an exam or an important presentation pass in the same amount of time as the 24 hours in any other given day - even though I rationally know it to be so. Rationality is overrated. I did not know that either, seven years ago.
Seven years is a long time, or a really short one - depending on your perspective. I was a different person back then, at the same time as I haven't really changed. My perspective has changed. My horizon has widened. I've exposed myself to education from both books, travels, and life. I've felt happiness, grief, fear, excitement, anger. I've lived, and I've learned. I hope to continue doing so, because I have no idea what the next seven years have to offer. I am eager to find out.
This post was inspired by a conversation on Facebook where my friend Stacy tried to figure out how long this group of friends had known each other. We met through a Harry Potter fansite (which is no longer active, sadly), and most of us have still only known each other online (though some have gotten together IRL over the years). We were all a little amazed to realize that it's been (approximately) seven years. The thought of everything that's happened since triggered a bit of a stroll down memory lane on my part. My HPANA-peeps are still among those I feel closest to, even though we've never had that much in common except a book series now concluded. Funny how that sometimes is enough to tie people together. Also one thing I've learned these past seven years.