The Things We Stay Alive For

June 15, 2014
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“The Things We Stay Alive For” summarizes the teenage years through a single moment. It is a snapshot of adolescence, yet captures the same overriding and distinctive feelings that are common during this time. The narrator reviews the memories that she associates with growing up. Descriptions of ice cream dates and sailboats make the beginning seem serene. However, the mood changes as the setting shifts. In the place of peaceful and carefree instances come details of a beloved grocery store, her vacant high school, and remembered back roads. These depictions show the astringency to a bittersweet reflection, and serve as a poignantly relatable image of goodbye.

The deviation in the piece’s tone grasps what it is like to be on the brink between childhood and adulthood, just as the narrator is. Warm recollections of simpler times flow so well that it’s easy to forget about a time lapse between the past and present. When she thinks back to and visits the places she associates with these memories, there is a sudden distance between her and the locations where she once felt she belonged. Despite a longing to avoid change, it is noted that she is no longer a child. The narrator’s current wishes are no longer in tune with the ease of years gone by, and even as she reminisces about fond occasions, she knows that things cannot remain.

“The Things We Stay Alive For” is unlike many traditional memoirs that I have read. There is an absence of dialogue and secondary characters, leaving the story to be told within a sole scene. However, like in all great memoirs, readers still see protagonist development. It is her last summer of being a kid, and there is a sorrow present for having to part, but she later acknowledges that it is the start of everything else. She sees now as a reward for the struggles of her youth. In discussing the things we stay alive for, the author successfully portrays that perhaps the greatest motivations are the things to come.

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