I remember when I was about fourteen years old being absolutely addicted to Angelfire-hosted technicolour quote websites. It was back in the early days of mainstream Internet where everyone thought it was cool to write like this:
*DoN’t FrOwN cUz U nEvA kNo HoOs FaLLiN iN LuV WiTh Ur SmiLe.*
But it was another, slightly more intelligent citation that stuck with me:
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
I just learnt that it belongs to writer (and dreamer, according to Wiki) Flavia Weedn.
I was reminded of it today, while thinking about the things we accept as truth.
This quote, and the logic that goes along with it, is something I’ve always been told. In different words, by different people, but essentially I’ve always known it to be true: people flow in and out of our lives.
I’ve moved a lot, and changed jobs even more often than that, but in every new place, I find my people. My tribe.
We’ll share confidences over coffee breaks and secrets over glasses of red. We’ll tease each other and crack the same old jokes and meet each other’s friends and boyfriends and girlfriends. We’ll have dinners and drinks and picnics and go hiking. We’ll exchange pointless instant messages for hours on end, live-text each other during football games. The stories I tell at home will revolve around the same cast of players. You know, I’ll say, the brunette who works for so-and-so. Wears glasses, likes bungee jumping. It’ll last 6 months, a year, two, perhaps. They will be my world and I’ll be part of theirs.
But I’ll leave, or they will. Or we both will. We’ll exchange email addresses and add each other on Facebook, maybe. If we’re lucky, every now and again something will remind us of that person we used to know, and if we’re not too busy, or distracted; if we don’t forget before we can get to the computer or the phone, we’ll dash off a quick message. ‘Thought of you today!’
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.”
“Some stay for a while…”
Whether it’s quick or after a while, the message here is that everybody leaves, eventually. That is truth and fact and How Life Is. People grow, people change, people move away. It is the natural order of things. To be expected.
And I’m the worst offender. I’m always leaving. Making plans and telling everyone about them with one foot already out the door. How ridiculous to think I’d stay here, or there, or in this job or in that city just for a bunch of strangers I called my friends for a little while. No big deal. I’ll make new friends. There will be other barbecues and dinner parties and late night pints in pavement cafés. New faces and stories and hobbies and jokes and insecurities and hopes and dreams.
I always find my people.
Knowing that everybody leaves, accepting this as truth turns our whole lives into a competition of Who Leaves First, Wins (does Mike Whitney still do hosting gigs?).
Caring too much is seen as a fault, a weakness. We use words like clingy, over-the-top, dramatic, to describe those who dare to extend the bounds of the contract we have with each other. The ones who really care about the answer to: ‘how are you’? The ones who text to wish you luck for a big presentation at work, who remember that it’s race day, who ask how your book is going.
Who are not afraid of appearing clingy, or over-the-top or dramatic. Who don’t think twice about how a kind word might be interpreted. Who don’t use the hideously limiting words: ‘give someone the wrong idea’.
I just don’t get where we get off putting these limits and boundaries on the relationships we have with other people. I always want more. More conversations, more depth, more time. Less small talk, less bullshit, less pointless gossip, less talking about work.
Someone walked out of my life this week, in a thoroughly undramatic way. If I wasn’t paying attention I might not have even seen them go. But a door was quietly eased shut, not slammed, and an underscoring drawn beneath the words: that’s all you get.
‘But I’m not done!’ I wanted to scream. ‘That’s it? Really?’ But I’m not allowed to. Because people leave. Some of them quickly, some after a while. And I’m supposed to know that, to live with that, to act accordingly.
Be normal at dinner, we’re told.
And then there are the footprints.
“Some…leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”
I get the sentiment. Some people change us. Scratch that, don’t all people change us?
We’ve all been hurt, gotten our hopes up, had too-high expectations and felt the stinging crush of disappointment. We learn. Next time, we’ll care less. We’ll leave first. We’ll do the hurting and the crushing.
To that I say: You can keep your damn footprints.