extraordinary sameness.

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“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” –William James

We like to think that our experience is special, that our story is singularly unique. That our experience is beautiful or horrible in a way no other story is, that it is exceptionally poignant in the scheme of the universe.

We say to each other “LOOK. THIS HAS HAPPENED TO ME” via Facebook and Instagram. We throw our experiences out into the world, hoping that by sharing them we can hold onto them, creating a backup copy just to make sure our memory doesn’t let us down.

Look, world- I have accomplished this goal. Look, friends- I have hit this milestone.

Look, everyone- I have suffered this loss, I have felt this heartbreak. It is far too much to bear alone.

And in every instance we search for others to validate the hope that our lives are worth noting, that our actions deserve a second glance, a thumbs up, a double tap. We hope that we are doing something extraordinary.

It is hard, I think, to realize that our stories are not all that special. That the tales of a broken heart, of lost love, of joy, of happily ever after- these are told time and again, in different places, with different names, including various obstacles. We are not writing new stories, we are retelling the same ones.

What a revelation, to some of us, that our experience is not new, that it is shared with countless others. That the lessons you have learned, the conclusions you have drawn, the simple truths of life that you have been forced to discover for yourself have been there, all along.

That all of the LOOK, THIS IS MY EXPERIENCE posts online are all the same, in varying forms, with different filters on photos, in different parts of the world.

But does that make them any less important, or special, or sacred?

It is humbling and mystifying to discover that someone else out there, in fact many people out there, have felt what you are feeling, have struggled and triumphed so very much like you have. It is beautiful and wonderful to know that, no, our experience is not all that unique- and because of that there is a whole world of people with which to say, ‘yes, me too.’

That is the reason we stare at paintings and cry at movies. It is the thing that whispers to us that dancing is beautiful, the invisible force that makes a crowd sway to music.

We each experience joy, love, and loss ourselves, and the feelings are special because they are our own, they are unique in the very action of feeling them.

But in our reaction to them, in the way they shape our lives, our minds, our world- they are shared. They are beautiful, special. They are what make us human, what makes this ‘the human experience.’

They are what make us the same. And that is what makes them so very important.

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an open letter to the friends who fade

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“The past beats inside me like a second heart.”  ― John Banville

To the friends who’ve faded:

Neither of us is really to blame for the fact that we lost touch. Time had something to do with it. Distance, life. Everything got in the way, despite FaceTime and iMessage. Although other friendships persisted for each of us, ours didn’t.

You pop up every once in a while on my Facebook feed, on Instagram. I see you went to London and he got a new puppy. She moved in with her boyfriend, and someone else moved farrrrr away. They got engaged, and that other couple we swore would make it crashed… hard.

I sometimes wonder if you’re happy, what your day-to-day life is like now. I used to be part of your day-to-day life. Remember that? The stupid, funny, lazy way we saw each other every day? In class, on the sidewalk, in the cafeteria… that was the norm. I wonder what we would say to each other now. Would you still let me steal your French fries?

How’re your parents? I think about them too.

I could message you or text you and say let’s get together and catch up, but we’re such different people now than we used to be. And what if reconnecting was somehow disappointing? Better to just leave the good memories where they are and avoid the risk of turning our once-friendship into an awkward encounter.

I guess what I really want you to know is that I liked having you in my life, even if you wouldn’t think so now. I’ll remember that nickname you gave me and the way you told off anyone who deserved it. I’ll remember the many cups of coffee we shared and the things we suffered through together.

We all just move forward and farther apart, whether we want to or not. The clock ticks and the time we spent together continues to fade away. Before it’s gone altogether, I just wanted you to know that I still think of you sometimes. I see old pictures of us together and I smile. I’d like you to live your life knowing that in whatever way I knew you, in whatever time, you mattered to me.

People grow, friendships fade- and they should. The friends you have in one phase of your life don’t always transfer to the next, and those friends aren’t always the best for you as you move on. But that doesn’t mean they were unimportant in shaping your life into what it is, into who you are.

I miss you, and the times we laughed together. I’ll always be grateful for those, and for how they got me here.

It truly was nice knowing you- cheers.

cheers, friend: a long-overdue ‘thank you’

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“Watson. Come at once if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same.” – Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Friendship is not the photo you posted on Instagram last week. It’s not the text you sent yesterday, and it’s not the phone call you made this afternoon.

It’s not the “See Friendship” button on Facebook.

Friendship is everything you are.

It’s the look that passes between us worldlessly because words are useless anyway.

It’s how you know when to step up and help me fight my battles, when to hold my hand, and when to let me sucker punch that idiot all by myself.

It’s that two a.m. confession and that 10 a.m. struggle brunch.

It’s knowing when to speak up and when to shut up. When to make me laugh and when to let me be.

Friendship is Kelsey helping me move out of my apartment and Jackie talking to me as I fell asleep every night. It’s Meaghan and Heather express-mailing me wine because I got my heart broken and Thomas texting me every day just to say ‘hi, love you’.

Friendship is Jess’s taco nights and Krista’s giggles. Henry’s bear-hugs, Kenny’s coffee runs and Mike’s REALLY awful jokes. It’s every late-night deadline in that weird-shade-of-blue office and every toast to each other, to life, and to figuring it out on the way that we made at Brookside.

It’s everything I can’t put into words.

Somehow, I forgot to say thank you. I got too used to seeing you every day, too used to knowing you were only ever across the hall or down the block.

I don’t know who you are, reading this, but I’ve been insanely lucky to have you in my life.

If you’ve seen me cry, thank you. If we’ve shared a laugh, thank you. If we’ve never met and you’re still reading this for some reason, thank you all the more- you’re important to me too (is that creepy? Sorry, Internet.)

Know that I didn’t mean to take you for granted and that you are truly what makes my life beautiful, even on my worst days. Especially then.

You are friendship minus the filters, the statuses, and the captions. You are friendship minus the flattery and the martyrdom. You are my favorite part of being me.

So, thanks. Because I can’t (and don’t) say it enough.

Cheers, friend.

Two Years in a Blink

It’s been exactly two years. I can still remember getting that phone call like it was yesterday…

Well, first comes the text message, but I think it’s just another scare. I’d gotten this kind of message before, and they’d all resulted in no incident. Just a few days of tense waiting, and then: oh, no, crisis averted, carry on with life. But this time is different. She’s sure.

I ask all the compulsory questions- “Who?” “When?” “But really, are you sure?” “What are you going to do now?”

“I’m on my way. You’re not doing this alone.”

She tries to protest, but I shut her down with one question- “If it were me, would you come?”

Check the train schedule, throw clothes in a bag, desperately ask for a ride to the station. No cash? Three roommates thrust twenties into my hands, and I’m in a friend I’ve grown apart from’s car, breathing deeply and trying not to panic.

“Is everything okay?”

“No, not really.”

“Shit- good luck. I’ll pray for you.”

“Thanks.” I wonder if it’ll help? A quick hug, and I’m out, slamming the door behind me and running to the track.

Waiting on the platform, it starts to hit me. My eyes fill against my will and I’m breathing heavy. Where the fuck is this goddam train? Three minutes late.

Fifteen feet away, two middle-aged women saddled with bright red rolling suitcases and the chatter of a corporate friendship are watching me rock back and forth nervously on my heels. I look at them- “The Amtrak headed to Rhode Island will be coming on this track, right?”

One of them nods quickly, her eyes squinted in concern, but not enough to ask. She continues watching me watch her for a moment and then looks away. Finally, the train’s lights appear down the curve and I get ready to get on.

Hand the woman my ticket and collapse into the first available seat, across from a clearly new couple that eyes me accusatorily, as though I’ve just plopped down between them in their own bedroom. “I’ll move as soon as a seat opens up,” I tell them. They inspect my wild eyes for a moment and return to each other while I try to slow my breathing.

Thankfully, a passenger in the row behind me gets off at the next stop, and I slip into the empty seat. Three hours ahead of me, no one to stare, and plenty of time to panic.This is when I let my eyes overflow. Silently, so as not to attract attention- or worse, questions.

I text her: ‘on my way. be there by nine. love you‘

The reply comes: ‘okay, love you too’

Two years ago, and it seems like yesterday. It was only two days ago I was sharing a slice of pie with that beautiful blue-eyed baby boy. It’s cliché as hell, but Jesus, does time fly.

Doctor…. Who? The Perks of Fandom

All the movies you watched in high school told you ‘nerds’ were the outcasts, but the truth is there are few things as wonderfully geeky and full of community as a fandom. People who are extremely passionate and excited about life are the only ones who can come together in all of their nerdy glory and geek out over a truly spectacular character, story, or idea.

If you’re any kind of person I want to be friends with, you at least heard about the 50th Anniversary special of Doctor Who that ran on Saturday. As I sat on the couch with DW fans new and old, sipping sonic screwdrivers and eating jammie dodgers acquired specifically for the occasion, I completely lost myself in the world of what will always be one of my favorite shows. It was epic, it was heartbreaking, but above all, it was unifying.

The beautiful thing about Doctor Who, and any story with a fandom like it, is that it unites. Thousands of people around the world watched their screens Saturday. Maybe you have nothing else in common, but if you can discuss which companion kicks ass and which Doctor is your favorite with someone, other things fall to the wayside.

When you’re 13 and you think being a ‘nerd’ is an automatic one-way ticket to social ambiguity, it’s hard to get excited about anything. When you’re 21 and you learn that geeking out over things that make you happy is actually a one-way ticket to friendship and a sense of community, ‘nerd’ is no longer a dirty word.

When you can make a friend simply because you have the same TARDIS phone case or because you off-handedly mention that your cat’s name is Stormaggedon, Dark Lord of All, you experience the true power of fandom.

Throw down your inhibitions and get excited about life. Whether it’s science fiction, fashion, English lit, math, whatever- find your fandom and prepare to expand your circle of friends. Share joy; that’s what life is for, and that’s what fandoms do. Geronimo.