5 min read

These Things Happen

I’m grateful for the unity between me and my friends' because it’s evidence of the strength of our bonds. We molded shared identities through experiences, music, humor, and suffering. In time, we mimicked each others’ idiosyncrasies and let them become part of us.
These Things Happen

I’m out of writing practice—surprise, surprise. It feels like every couple of posts I welcome myself back from a hiatus and promise that this time I’ll write more consistently. After two years (happy belated two year birthday Open Thought Blog!), I’ve written 24 pieces, so roughly one a month—although, I’ve never been that consistent. So is this a promise to write once a week? Twice a month? Something better than a five month break? Not really; I shouldn't make promises I can't keep. This other blog I've been reading, Wait But Why, promises "new posts every sometimes," so I'm not the only one.

(Has it really been 5 months since the last post? That must be a new record. I've started to add my photography to the blog, so if you count those posts, it has only been 3 months! Unfortunately, I don't count those either.)

I feel my creative muscles have atrophied, so I need to hit the writing gym again. Here is my attempt at doing so.

If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” - Dan Poynter

I find myself leaning on iterations of the quote, “that’s life”. A few of my favorites include, “so life goes,” “these things happen,” “life be life-ing,” and possibly the funniest of them all, “sometimes you don’t think it be like it do but it is.” From minor inconveniences to life changing events, there’s nothing within the human experience that can’t be summarized by saying, “these things happen.”

And unsurprisingly, in the next few weeks, things will happen—a few friends of mine will leave the city. Friends that were strangers to me a few years ago but now are anchors is my life. It's bittersweet because although I'm excited for their growth and pursuits, I’m torn to see them go.

In Escape into Meaning, Puschak examines the concept of shared identities in his essay “On Friendship”. He challenges the notion that “individuals are the basic unit of humanity” by retorting that “shared identities”—especially those forged through friendship, matter more. Although, not a new idea, I like this conceptualization more than sayings like “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, because it recognizes us as equal influences on our friends as they are to us. Puschak writes, “our identities do blend, and the intricacy of that blending in a group of friends is a unity all its own.”

I’m grateful for the unity between me and my friends' because it’s evidence of the strength of our bonds. We molded shared identities through experiences, music, humor, and suffering. In time, we mimicked each others’ idiosyncrasies and let them become part of us. This is why Puschak writes, “I know that “I” am only part of “me,” and that the rest is comprised of others.”

However, by submitting ourselves to this unity, we inadvertently make ourselves vulnerable to great loss. The same fervor that fuels our connections can deliver us grief when relationships change. We grieve the loss of routine, perhaps no longer sharing lunches or laughs together. We grieve the loss of future, the future in which our connections never falter. And of course, we grieve the loss of shared identity. The mirrored mannerisms, and jokes and sayings with lost origins.

For my friends, I grieve the “we” and “us” that has formed over the hours, weeks, and years. To the friends I made in my childhood, thinking that there isn’t a world in which we aren’t connected, but especially to the friends I’ve made in my adult life. The friends that I spoke to or saw every day, but now certainly fewer. And the friends that are soon departing, that when I saw a few days ago I couldn’t help but fear the timer counting down.

Puschak, now thirty-three, writes about similar fears regarding his college friends who scattered across different cities to pursue careers, be near family, or pursue the world. He grieves the intense unity he once shared with his friends when he writes, “I know we’ll probably never be that close again…It’s not that we love one another less; it’s that there’s no substitute for physical proximity and the free time of early adulthood”.

During a farewell party a few weeks ago, I spoke to a friend who runs a coffee shop. He’s a few decades older than me, so I asked him for his wisdom. I asked him how he feels about our friend leaving town.

He describes the different times and phases in his life as different lives he’s lived. He tells me about a life in the military. He tells me about living across the nation in Seattle, in times of peak grunge. He tells me about a life of internal strife and struggle. He remembers each life because they've all converged to create the one he's living now, and the same can be said for the next one.

But it's not the time or the place that shapes the life, it's the people within them. The strangers, friends, families, and lovers—they are the ones that we intertwine our hearts with.

It’s always hard,” he said, “you learn to love people even though you know that everyone won’t be there forever. Sometimes I grieve the lives I shared with those people—friends, lovers. Sometimes I’ll be alone in the bathroom looking at myself in the mirror and I’ll let a few tears fall because I miss them, you know? A part of you always wants to go back to another life, so the tears have to come out sometime. But I’m always grateful. Always grateful. Because I had a chance to share time with them and learn who they are and what they value. And this life only exists because of them, they’re a part of me and I hope—no, I know that I’m a part of them. That’s why I’m grateful.

I don’t think that the different lives we’ve lived are determined by years—that model is too fixed, too rigid. I think it’s determined by our identities. Each identity doesn’t have a defined start or end, we just know, when we look back, and perhaps grieve, that much has changed and we’re living a different life.

When I look back now, I recognize I’m living a different life. A life with new faces, places, and routines. A life with old memories and remnants of shared identities too. I often grieve those shared identities I fostered years ago, remembering the beautiful unities that formed. I too look in the mirror, try and tug at the fabric of time, and doing so I let a few tears fall. And I’m certain, that in my next life, I’ll look back on today, and do the same. I'll grieve the hours spent with my soon departing friends. I'll remember the shared meals, trivia nights, and inside jokes, yes with grief, because shared identities are proof of love, but with happiness too, because at the end of grief is gratitude. The tears that fall will always be mixed with glitter as much as salt, that I am certain. Because I’ve lived enough lives and shared enough identities to know that these things happen.

Thanks for reading! If you liked it, please share it with a friend! If you didn't, I'm sorry. :(

Please leave a comment if you would like, I'd love to keep the discussion going. Or email me (openthoughtblog@gmail.com) and let me know how I did or if you have any critiques, comments, or recommendations. If you liked this or any other post, please consider subscribing. :)