I wake up early. The clock ticks 7am. I laugh because most days, this is when my alarm clock blasts Forget You by CeeLo Green and I face the impossible task of dragging my body out of bed. Yet on this morning when sleeping late into the day is acceptable, I roll out of the covers with ease, bounce up the creaking stairs and set to scrubbing my teeth for the day. I am wide awake, ready to punch this day in the face, and everyone else in the house is currently lost in the land of unconsciousness shut-eye.
The kitchen floor creeks unfamiliarly as I tiptoe across its surface. The house is silent and dim, the sun has not yet peaked its way into the day. I am shivering in the basement, so I take my favourite floral notebook- the one I’ve carved all my emotions and questions into over the recent months- and I place myself cross-legged on the green carpeted living room floor. I think to myself how strange this is. To be alone in my friend’s living room with old family picture frames and the maroon coloured couch he probably sat on to watch TV during his high school days.
In college we seldom see the home environment of our friends. We arrive to this brick-built campus, with our baggage loaded in the back of an old Honda civic and our baggage hidden in the shadows of how we approach daily life. Every one of us with our own stories- of childhood, religion, culture, relationships and ideas of normality. Despite all the loquacity or viewing of pictures in the world, the people we meet will never fully understand the first 18 or so years of our life. These years will always be a sort of mystery, unique to you and the people that shaped those years.
I have noticed that we frequently consider how little we know of our college friends. Within the daily rhythm of classes, homework, meals, and sleep, we grow strangely accustomed to doing life with one another. I acclimate so quickly into conversations of last night’s awkward room mate situation or tomorrow’s horrid group project, that I forget how the person sitting beside me has almost two decades of their life that I was never apart of.
I pause to consider this.
These people that I see every day, merge my life with in the schedule of homework, meals and late-night panic attacks- most of these people have only been apart of my life for a matter of months. How quickly we have weaved our lives into one another. I feel as though I have known most of these people my entire life.
And I wonder how we measure friendship. Whether it is by time spent together or the number of memories made or the depth of conversation or the amount of facts known of each other. Is Time alone a fair measurement of friendship? Most often relationships are born out of happen stance situations- the shift you worked together, the dreadful group project, the teacher you both hated, the conference you both attended, the class field trip, the intramural volleyball team ect. When the friendship binding situation ends, the friendship ends along with it. Then there are friendships that transcend situations- the people who stay in your life when you quit the job or graduate to new classes or move to a new dorm. The people who become bound to you rather than bound to your mutual connection.
Time floats along and my perspective of relationships along with it. Freshmen year I was a friend collector, desperate to scoop up as many people as I could in the palm of my hand. This guaranteed familiar faces in the cafeteria and a long string of people I was able to wave to while walking down the mall way. I thought that if I met hundreds of people, somehow it would curb the imminent loneliness of beginning a new season of life. Yet having too many friends is hallowing, it creates a subsequent emptiness of not being known or understood, or having on one to call at 2am when it feels as though everything is falling apart.
My friend asks me if I think history is a good enough reason to keep someone in your life. Stowed up memories of volleyball practice and math class and friday night sleepovers, she wonders if all the time spent together is enough reason to meet up in a Starbucks to rehash old memories when you both find yourselves at home for the holiday season. My cousin tells me to make a list of people important to me, to write their names into a column of family-members, home-friends, and away-friends. I hesitate because it seems so normative to reduce my relationships, so beautiful and complex, to blue ink on a 8 by 11 inch sheet of paper. My favourite author writes how people come and go, with the ebb and flow of life, and our mandate is to enjoy them while they are here and let them go when they are gone. I cannot do this so easily. Come into my life and I plan on keeping you forever. I never consider time frames. I never plan on saying goodbye.
But an evening with a friend, senior, graduating in the spring, suddenly afflicts me with panic. He speaks of moving on to his future careers and new daily routines, and this is when I realize: This is the beginning of a long list of goodbyes.
I will never escape this churning of seasons and waving adiós to dear friends destined for more wonderful things.
This is reality I can choose to embrace or reject. Life’s truest facts are the ones that once heard, cannot be ignored. No matter how irritating or uncomfortable, they demand to be acknowledged. For they are the great big elephant in the room. And this has never been more profoundly true for me.
There is a room filled with boxes. Labels on the boxes read innocent blood of Newtown shooting…boy that named me ugly in middle school…a midnight prayer still unanswered…the grief of a lost parent…an unhealthy relationship…losing self to unconscious sleep hours…screams on a Russian train ride…hard conversations that need to be spoken…the once dear friend I now pass silently in the hallway…the becoming of the person you swore you would never be…a God that demands surrender… Over the years, these boxes pile high to reach the ceiling and fill the furthest corners. The room bursts with all my neglected problems and questions.
Every box demands to be attended to but I choose to ignore, I choose to keep cramming the boxes into corners, one on top of the other. It is much easier this way. People tell me to face the music, but the music bellows loud- pounding in my ear drums and thumping in my chest- its melody is too much for this battered soul of mine. Instead I build walls to block out the music. Thicker and thicker these walls become until the pounding of my problems grow strangely silent and I find a sense of temporal peace.
But through my cardboard walls, the music persists. I hear its melody in the silence of afternoon runs through neighbourhood roads and the solitude of moments I find myself alone. C.S. Lewis’ words ring clear, “Pain insists upon being attended to.”