During my regular sessions of philosophizing while sitting in traffic, I often think of people I used to be extremely close to. My old horseback riding instructor, who got me through my middle school years, including my parents’ divorce, awkward stage, and shall we call it “lack of popularity.” My best friend from 9th grade summer camp, with whom I had more inside jokes than I could possibly recall. My freshman year college roommate, who laughed and talked with me for hours upon hours. My first longterm boyfriend, who I spent every waking second with for 2 1/2 years. My best friend from the year I was a singer at Busch Gardens, who people called “my other half” that summer. The coworkers from my restaurant job in NYC, who I traveled with to Puerto Rico on vacation.
At one point in my life, each of these people– and others– were important figures in my life. They meant a lot to me. They knew me, and I knew them. Now, I keep in touch with most of them via the occasional “like” on Facebook– and some, not at all. It’s such a strange feeling, to have once felt so incredibly connected to people, only now to see them as distant figures from the past. The intimate moments, the vulnerability, the comfortability. That feeling of closeness remains if and when I see them again, but without the daily experiences that bonded us together, it’s not quite the same.
Part of me gets extremely sad when I let the drifting of those relationships sink in. I think I’ve written this before, but I often wonder, what’s the point of getting close to people if you probably won’t remain that way forever? Really, the only people who have or will remain in my life on a regular basis are my husband and family members. Even my best friends and I have to adjust our communication around proximity. Don’t get me wrong– my best friends and I have and will always be extremely bonded, as has been proven over the last 20 years, but I certainly don’t talk to them as much as I did when we were in high school or college, spending every single day with one another.
Sometimes the whole question of why we get close to people at all even lends itself to the finality of death, like when I lost my mom. If everyone’s going to either die or drift away eventually, why are relationships still the most important things to us humans??
But once I realize that this cycle of closeness to other people is simply a part of life that I can’t control– nor fight, I stop feeling so exasperated, and start seeing the purpose. Perhaps it’d be great if we had time and room in our hearts for all the people we value throughout our lives, but if I kept up with every single person I cared about from birth forward, I’d need at least 96 hours in a day. We simply can’t maintain the same closeness to people as our lives move forward. Most people must remain characters in just one chapter of our lives. Their role will always influence the chapters that follow, but they cannot always continue on, themselves.
Besides, do you really want your college boyfriend to still be a main character? Even if you left on good terms, the answer is still “no.” It’s usually really weird to think of how close you were at one point, especially when you see them years later and say hello like distant acquaintances. Remembering that former bond with fondness is normal (unless you left on terrible terms), but that doesn’t mean it’s what you want right now. Obviously. I have no desire to be with anyone except my made-for-me husband, and that includes people I haven’t met yet, along with anyone from my past.
Sharing life with an array of different people over the years is a bit sad in the sense of continual loss, but equally as joyous in terms of continual gain. While I’ll never know my old summer camp friend on the level I once did (or at all), I now know my new friends in Virginia Beach. I get to enjoy their company, learn from them, lean on them, and have them lean on me. When Aaron and I inevitably move due to his job, I’ll meet new people that become important to me. It’s not a matter of “dropping” people you care about, but there’s just no denying that a lack of time together alters the friendship. That’s just how things work. But the good news is that we’re constantly introduced to new people, new friendships, new memories.
In the end, all of the people you’ve loved throughout life are in your community database. And you’re in their’s. You may not talk a lot, or at all, but you’ve left your mark as much as they’ve left their’s. Instead of focusing on the sadness of how relationships eb and flow, it’s so much better to focus on how the numbers keep expanding as you add to your network each passing year, meeting people you never knew existed the minute before. Quality over quantity, of course, but how exciting is it that there are so many people left for us to love in our lives? People we haven’t even met yet!
I’m so grateful for every person I’ve felt incredibly close to at some point in my life. Be it a friend from childhood, an ex who broke my heart, or someone I worked alongside. The memories we share are real, despite sometimes feeling like a dream or lifetime ago. And it’s those memories that make up my life. So, you see, that’s the point. Whether someone’s actively part of our lives for a moment or forever, they collectively are life. And you create life for others, just the same.