Friday, June 26, 2015

Ships Passing in the Night: People Come and Go

People appear in my life.  Some stay.  Some spend some time and then move on. This is how it's always been, for as long as I can remember. I have also thought about my own staying or leaving. When I was younger, it was mostly leaving. Today, I tend to feel bad about that, but I also need to let it go. Is there a reason some people remain in our lives and some disappear after a time?  Do we meet the people we need to meet -- for whatever reason -- and form attachments to those from whom we can best learn and grow? What's really going on with the people who come and go in our lives?

When I joined Facebook in the fall of 2009, I had low expectations. I had not thought much about why I wanted to join. So it was a surprise when people I'd known many years ago found me there and contacted me.  I continue to find people there, but it's curious how I think and feel now about it.  At some point between 2009 and now, I began to get very picky about who I'd let into my Facebook world.  I realized that I had defined my Facebook world as personal and private, open only to people I wanted to share my personal and private life with.  I've made some exceptions because there have been people I've wanted to "friend" there in order to stay in contact with them.  But overall, Facebook is a personal and private place for me.

It has provoked some interesting thinking about how people seem to move into one's life and then out, sometimes returning, sometimes disappearing forever.  For example, I was best friends with a guy named Dennis when in elementary school.  We were inseparable.  His house was about halfway between my house and the school.  I'd walk to his house, pick him up, and we'd walk to school together.  Then one day, he told me that they were moving away to another city.  I was devastated.  After he and his family moved, I never saw or heard from him again.  I have searched for him on Facebook.  It's occurred to me, of course, that now we could be such different people that we might no longer be friends.  And then it hit me.

Change.  As we grow up, we change.  Not everyone we know changes in the same direction and that could account for some people disappearing.  I believe that not everyone is supposed to stay in one's life, also.  Imagine the number of people we'd accumulate from pre-school through adulthood.  But we still become acquainted with a large number of people, we meet people once or we know them through work. Each of us
has concentric circles around us, with each one representing people whom we know and their position in our lives.  We stand in the center, and the closer to us the circle is, the closer we are to the people within that circle.

I wonder if I'm the only person who has a gallery of people whom I met in the past, with whom I lost contact for one reason or another, and with whom I'd like to re-establish contact and it pains me that I cannot find them. With the internet, it's been possible to search for them, as long as they haven't had a common name.  But it has surprised me just how difficult it's been to find some of them.  Does that mean that they are to remain forever out of my life now?

During the summer of 2014, I found one of them.  My search was prompted by notices from a study abroad program that we had both attended.  He was also a musician and we had corresponded after we'd returned to the U.S. after the study abroad program had ended.  Then he stopped writing.  When I searched for him, I was shocked to learn that he had died in 2008. It was painful to realize that I would not be able to re-establish contact with him, talk with him again, find out what he'd been doing during the years I hadn't heard from him.  I realized, too, that I'd wanted to tell him that he'd been right about something.  Learning of his death made me wonder if all the people I couldn't find had passed on also. 

When someone at Facebook has found me and told me that he or she had been looking for me on the internet, I've been surprised but also pleased.  So far, no one has told me this with whom I have not wanted to re-establish contact, even if it's only through Facebook.  It's flattering to be searched for!  Then I wonder about the people I'm searching for -- do they remember me?  Are they searching for me, too?  Or have they forgotten or given up?

Take a deep breath.  In the end, what's really important is the here and now, i.e. the people in my life now and my place in their lives.  Maybe I'll re-connect with others, or not.  What will be, will be.  As I've moved on through my life, I have come to believe that people exist in our lives for a purpose.  Sometimes, it is our challenge to discover that purpose, learn and grow from it.  Or sometimes it is only to enjoy that person's presence in our lives, to laugh with him or her, and to cherish him or her.

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