A battle won by bubble gum!
Ten years ago, on the last day of September, my life was packed precisely in one suitcase and three boxes. “We have to move, but you’ll get a dog” were the words. Everything I knew and liked was about to change completely. The macaroni and cheese they served every Thursday in our school cafeteria, the lovely kitchen maid Marija, who would always stack me up with another plate of delicious goodies behind the teachers back, and a little white cat, who always greeted me on my way to school. Heck, now that I thought of it, I even liked the smell of roasted onions that poured into the walls from the bottom apartment on Sundays.
Our new destination was a small village, high in the hills, with no asphalt, mailboxes, neighbours or a decent TV reception. Even the three modest channels we got were probably sent there by mistake. If I wanted to watch my favourite show, my dad had to stand on the balcony, grasping the last snippets of signal with arms and antenna stretched out over the railing. My dog kept me company, but she couldn’t make all the difference.
For a long time, I had difficulties coping with the situation. I used to think that things would be easier if our address was still the same as it had been for thirteen years. When one chapter of our life turns in another direction than we initially planned, it’s really easy to idealize the previous situation, because we don’t know how it would’ve turned out. It’s similar to the unrealistic expectations of an old crush, that would have vanished the moment you smelled their bad morning breath, saw them burning a toast or hear them be disrespectful to an old lady on the street. My view of our previous life was glazed into an idealized version of itself and, with a pinch of nostalgia, was making me unable to enjoy new experiences and friendships. Until one lucky moment came.
“Do you have a piece of bubble gum?”
A classmate with a confident posture, sparkly hoodie and a warm smile, approached me.
“I do, absolutely do!”, I replied with a smile and warmth I hadn’t felt in months. That wrap of pink coloured sugary strip was my ticket to after-school hangouts near the track field, private jokes about teachers and a sitting buddy on field trips. As my cheerful circle was expanding, my resentment towards change was decreasing. It made me realize that because change seems like such an intruder in our perfectly safe routine, we often don’t see it as an opportunity for personal progress. Looking back on this experience, I am happy our move didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. My memory book is a bit thicker, my voice a bit bolder. Most importantly though, I realized the awesome connecting power of chewing gum when stepping into a room full of strangers!
Text: Ajda Gregorc