Hello, Goodbye

September was very good to me. Life handed me a stein full of cold beer, and let me tell you, the eighth swig was just as good as the first: refreshing, crisp, and ever so satisfying. And I lapped it up. Believe me, did I ever. I felt like Steph Curry in Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets back in 2013. It was amazing. Straight fire.  

Then October started. And some annoying work stuff happened. And I started pitying myself, which led to me counting the hours until I could get out of the office and wallow in that pity.  

But then, something unexpected happen. A friend gave me a life update. This person’s life had taken a turn, and they had to go another direction—which meant leaving my life story for the time being. 

The news stunned me. I sat at my desk shaking for several moments. How could this happen? Why? This was so unfair! My emotions ran the gamut several times over and left my head spinning. Only when I got into my car to go home could I begin gathering my thoughts. Here is the main thought I arrived at.

People leave our lives all the time—sometimes expectedly, sometimes not. Either way, you are then forced to say goodbye. A common reaction tends to be, “Why didn’t I spend more time with this person? Why didn’t I grab lunch when they asked? Why didn’t I respond to their message more promptly? Why wasn’t I a better friend?” Now, feeling guilty is natural, but it isn't terribly productive either. You don’t get to rewind and do it differently. Give thanks for that person’s presence, and if you wish, resolve to make time next time.

But there is something you can do, right here, right now. And it’s much easier than you might think.

Think about the people you care about and are with you in your story right now. Then go one step further: Tell them you care about them and that they matter. Do it directly: text message, phone call, email, video chat, whatever. Don’t be afraid of being honest. Tell me, what is the worst thing that can happen when you open up your heart to someone who matters to you and you know feels the same way? You aren’t talking to your middle-school crush. You’re talking to a parent, a sibling, a cousin, a neighborhood friend, a high school teammate, a college roommate. This is someone you already adore, no strings attached. Why not remind them of that adoration? Speak it into existence. The whole world doesn’t need to know. Just that person. 

Here, if you need a little template for inspiration: “Hey (INSERT NAME HERE). Was just thinking of you. Remember (INSERT FUN MEMORY HERE)? Good times. Appreciate you.”

Even if you make that person smile just for a moment, isn’t that worth it? To bring light to someone you care about?

Because let me tell you something. Time is our most precious resource in the world, and we really don’t know how much any of us truly have with each other. Lives are dynamic, not static. That doesn’t mean you should live afraid. Rather, it means there is little time to be afraid. Why hoard positivity? It isn’t a finite commodity. Plus, what happens if that person’s (or your, for that matter) story changes, and their chapter in your story ends? All those positive vibes you thought about but never shared do you little good. So please, open your heart with those that matter to you. I am certain you’ll brighten their spirits. We all could use a little more light in this world. 

My Biggest Shortcomings With Love

Over the past several weeks, I’ve reflected on what life has taught me over the better part of the past decade. Unsurprisingly, it came down to love. Here is what I concluded:

I loved my vision of life too much.

I didn’t love myself enough.

Let me frame this in the context of a story. You are the author’s protagonist. Every thought, action, feeling you have is part of the narrative. And as life happens, your story plays out.

Now imagine, instead of listening to the story, you start interrupting the storyteller. Based on other things you’ve heard—from friends, family, mainstream tropes—you think your story should play out a certain way. Like, you think it would be best if your character had gone to the party rather than stay home; or should have gone to a certain university over another; or that your character should be much more developed by Chapter 28 than it seems to be.

And because you think you know better than the storyteller, you judge whether this is a good story or not based on your personal vision rather than what has actually happened. Naturally, you will end up disappointed since reality doesn’t line up with how you think it should be.

This has been one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. I don’t know if other writers feel this way, but I usually believe my way of conveying information is best. And because I’m biased towards my life character—not surprising, considering it’s me—I gravitate towards believing my story should play out in a certain way, i.e., linearly. Like, I complete Action A, which should yield Outcome B based on my understanding of history and experience and what I read and hear. But this equation isn’t perfect (or even correct)! There are many more variables involved, and I can’t possibly account for all of them. Yet I thought I could. And I’ve stubbornly pushed forward with them despite plenty of resistance because I thought my interpretation of the story was best.

Turns out, my life’s storyteller is even more stubborn than I am. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be the storyteller. So here I am, finally ready to shut up and listen.

Being a prisoner to a vision is not just inflexible—it’s also suffocating. If you think life should play out in a certain way—and it doesn’t—you can end up feeling very badly about yourself and believe that you did something wrong. Even if you didn’t! 

I fell into this trap. And I didn’t realize it until a friend called me out on it. Essentially, she argued I was too focused on what I thought other people wanted rather than listening to what I wanted. It didn’t dawn on me that my efforts to make a vision a reality were actually subversive. Yet I was pushing certain standards and expectations upon this character that weren’t me. I became a slave to my vision. Simply, I was pursuing my idea of the best story because it was a goal, but I never even considered if the goal was worth accomplishing. 

I struggled with this notion because ultimately, I find it easier to be what other people want you to be. It’s easier to follow directions, a template. There is a lot more risk involved when you go off script, and the only one who believes in you is you. 

But if you love yourself, then you’ll trust yourself even when other voices raise doubt. And you will pursue paths that you think will lead to the most fulfillment. Because it’s your voice, not others. 

So rather than stick with rigid visions, I’ll seek to trust myself more. Just try and embrace the pandemonium, as it were. It’s my story, after all. Mine is the only audience review I should care about. 

As scary as it is, it should also make for fun stories. And I do like a fun story.