Traveling and living as I have been the last few years has meant that I have experienced some of the most intense and randomly wonderful connections I’ve ever had. People can come into my life for even a few hours, maybe just a few days, but they change me irrevocably. We share stories and pour our lives out into each other and talk about things as easily as if we had known one another for years. We split taxis and tuk tuks, dinners and drinks; we give advice and listen and wipe tears and give hugs and encouragement. We laugh until we can’t breathe and stop in the middle of it and look at each other in wonder and say we are so glad to have met! We are filled with joy at one another’s ventures and adventures and misadventures; we fiercely love each other’s plans and hopes and we want to protect them as if they were our own. We travel next to one another as strangers but walk in an intimacy that springs up as easily as turning a key in a lock. We work with one another, live next to each other, share our lives and build a family within the bookends of a teaching contract. It is the very best of the human experience of falling in with your people, seeing them for who they are, knowing they will be good to and for you, and knowing you can be good to and for them. I have found pieces of me in other people because they have shown me things I didn’t know I had inside of myself.
And then, as is inevitable, they leave or I leave. They slip out of my life as easily as they have come, a bird held in my hand for a moment before it darts off again into the sky. Just like that, all of who they are and were to me is gone and I know my only reasonable expectation is that they are gone forever.
It does feel abrupt; it’s a suddenly violent absence, regardless of the length of shared time, hours or months. One moment you are mixed up in the heady magic of human connection, of reveling in these people around you, counting your lucky stars that your paths crossed, and the next moment their path or yours jumps off on its own and it’s almost, almost as if they were never there. In the solitude after you sit with a heavy nostalgia so large that it feels like a traveling partner you picked up to replace the people you just left.
It hurts. I would never say it doesn’t.
I am terribly sentimental about humans, and I love them dearly- their mannerisms, their ideas, their faces, their voices, the things they want to be and do. If my friends all over the world could know how often my thoughts turn to them, if they could feel them when they come out of me, they would never have reason to feel alone or unloved in this life. I adore them, and it’s not too strong a word. When I find my people, I mean it.
But they leave. But I leave. So why do it at all? What is the point in these connections with end dates? Is it just so much churning to produce nothing? Why pour so much energy into something I don’t get to keep? Why do they do the same to me?
It’s because loving other humans isn’t about keeping them. Caring about someone, building a friendship with them, this is not a cage. It is not a leash or a collar you put on another person. It’s simply not contingent on their staying. Companionship is not a contract or a condition of terms. It’s given and taken freely because in the end the only thing we have to give one another is our humanity at the highest level of good we can give it, and the only thing we can freely take is the same when it is offered to us. All of these leavings of wonderful people who have slipped in and out of my life, binding me to them like a running stitch, has confirmed to me that this life is filled, absolutely overflowing, with the best people- with an inexhaustible army of them, in fact. As one leaves my side I can be sure that they will continue to travel on and others will meet them and, like me, will appreciate who they are and what they give and others will give to them as I have. And new people will come into my life and it will start all over again. When I think of it on a large scale, I imagine us all criss-crossing the world connected to each other, all these shining strands. It never stops, as we travel on down our respective and far flung roads, weaving a pulsing, beating, breathing thing, a sprawling web of connections made. I wonder who is coming down the road towards me next. I wonder who I am moving down the road towards at the moment. I am excited for what I will learn, what I will teach, what I will take, what will be taken from me.
The world has never felt so expansive or so small, so simultaneously. I feel both knitted together in a small tribe with these people, and I feel blown to pieces and expanded infinitely by how many more of them are out there. The ever expanding potential of human connection is eternity to me. That is what I believe in. The ability to change and be changed is ever present. It is an irreplaceable treasure and comfort to realize with conviction, based on experience, that everywhere in this world I have traveled there have been people there with whom I belonged. Wherever I head next, others are waiting for me, and I for them. It makes me know with certainty that, in places I have never been and will perhaps never see, there are others with whom I belong. I am a part of this, whatever this is, and I have much to give and much to learn. I am enamored with the truth of that. It is a light inside of me regardless of anything else that falters.
So I will always embrace the hello, knowing the goodbye curled inside of it, welcoming the leaving that begins as soon as the beginning happens. I’ll see you when you get here. I’ll find you when I get there. We’ll know each other when the time comes.