Updated: Oct 29, 2018
Yesterday sucked. Like, it wasn’t fun. I felt gross all day, I was unproductive, and I simply couldn’t bear to get my lazy backside off the couch to do… anything. It was awful, and pretty abnormal for me.
At the end of my useless day, I couldn’t sleep, so I went on a walk. To tire myself out, clear my head, whatever. I wasn’t sure of the motivation. And I felt… lonely. Frustrated. I wanted to be with my people again. I missed Jess and Matthew and my mom and Brian and Alyssa and Jonah and Brennan… all of them. I missed my people, and it sucked.
Being in South Haven is wonderful, it’s an awesome place. But all of this alone time isn’t what it's cracked up to be. Which reminded me of a thought I frequently had around graduation, a few short months ago.
“I’m never going to see you again.”
Never may be a dramatic word choice, but it’s not unreasonable. Calvin College may be a small liberal arts school in a (very) large Michigan town, but the reality is that people go… everywhere from Calvin. Some students go on to teach in small town New Mexico or Indonesia. Many foreign nationals go back to their home countries of Korea, Nigeria, and Ghana, because they weren’t able to get a job that sponsors their visa. Many students who grew up American and grew up in Michigan stay right there— in West Michigan.
And then there’s me, a Midwestern flat lander with a passion for the mountains, having my eye on the scenes of Colorado, Washington State, and New Hampshire. And temporarily, the Alps of France or crowded streets of China. Places that… few Calvin grads go, and even fewer stay.
So while graduating, that thought of “I’m never going to see you again” wasn’t that unreasonable. The same thing happened in high school, although this feels much more dramatic because it’s present. As far as high school friends go, I’ve been impressed at how much I’ve been able to stay in touch with them. Alyssa and Tucker being the biggest surprises. Heck, I socialized with high school friends (acquaintances?) that I hadn’t see in five years last week, and it went great. So it’s not that I won’t see college friends again, that’s not the issue. It’s just that there’s plenty that I’ll never see again.
The finality feels odd. In my comfortable life, so little is permanent. Sure, I grew up from an early age understanding death, but it’s not like I’ve moved around all my life, never settling into a place. Whenever I went someplace new, the change was never permanent. I always knew I’d be coming back home. But this… is convicting.
I grew up to my dad saying “there’s friends for a reason, a season, and a lifetime.” Obviously he, and nearly everyone else, has had the thought that I do. I’m not unique. And that aphorism is a way of dealing with the “oh man, never?" reaction. We value ourselves as humans highly and therefore want to value others highly. So that expression seems tone deaf at times.
Basically, “there’s friends for a purpose (an ends), a time, and forever.” It just feels off. But it’s good to be reminded how temporal relationships are.
For as much as we value them, even though most of us draw the very value of life from our relationships, with friends, family, and coworkers… they’re temporal. The only things certain in life are death and taxes and change. The third is a tag along we often forget about.
I’m reminded of a conversation I had with George, the Trip Staff Director at a summer camp I worked at during one of our bike rides. He’s been there for twenty-some-odd years. Towards the end of the summer, I shared that I felt listened to, known, and cared for by him. But asked “how and why do you do that, when I’m here today, gone tomorrow? Aren’t you sick of this revolving door of relationships?”
In a voice that I came to love, slightly gravely, weathered by years of wisdom, he responded, “I try not to focus on the revolving door aspect, but you’re right. I care for people and try to help them, because at the end of the day, we’re all trying to make our way home.”
Now, deduce what you will from that idea of “home,” whether that’s your next goal, the afterlife, heaven, some ideal future in your mind, or whatever, but he put it so poetically. “We’re all just trying to make our way home,” and I, George am here to help.
That was one of the most memorable conversations I had that summer.
And of course there’s some people whom I thought I’d never see again whom I’ve maintained wonderful relationships with, and seen multiple times.
Rachel has told me no fewer than a dozen times, “Ben, I’m never gonna see you again.” Since leaving New Hampshire, we’ve seen each other twice, due to my getting around so much. I can’t say I’m worried. Having friends all over the country is part of what makes my life worth living. I have so many good excuses to visit new places and old people.
All of this is to say, yes, sometimes “I’m never going to see you again” is true, and that’s okay. My dad was right in his aphorism. But it’s a wonderful surprise when that remark is wrong. And I wouldn’t be elated by the surprise if I didn’t know that weighty phrase is often correct.
So I guess I come away with a call to make relationships count, since they all have an expiration date. And remember at the end of the day, “we’re all trying to make our way home.”
And a toast to those who make my life rich. 🍻