Distance, Time, and Choice

What I'll relay here is not new to any of you. Every human has experienced this feeling before, and countless have doubtless written about it.

I'll throw my thoughts out there regardless.

I have been fortunate in my life - in countless ways, but especially this one - to have acquired enough confidence to be comfortable speaking to new people. Don't get me wrong - all of these encounters terrify me to my core, and I still have to talk myself into them, each and every time. I see or hear someone doing or saying something interesting, enumerate the options in my head, and sometimes decide on putting myself in the most vulnerable position: reaching out for the first "Hello." More often than not, this strategy has allowed me to form a path to getting to know some of the most intelligent, kind-hearted, fascinating people I have ever met.

There's a caveat (isn't there always?). In the case that I meet these people in, say, another country, or on a short trip from one foreign land to another foreign land, maintaining our glorious new friendship presents some challenges.

I can speak about this on the micro and macro levels. I have friends in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, England, Portland... and two miles from my apartment in Oklahoma. Both distances prove difficult to traverse, and why is this?

Our time is limited. Like, super limited. In fact, I belong to the group of people (we aren't well-formed; we don't have weekly meetings or anything) who are a little bit nihilistic, believing that not a single moment on this earth is guaranteed to us. So those hours watching Netflix or staring at the ceiling or napping in a coffee shop transform into something a lot more precious.*

*That, of course, doesn't mean I stop doing these seemingly pointless things, because relaxation is important too. 

How then, do I choose between all these beautiful people in my life? Our shared experiences form a web of memories that are brought to the forefront by the strangest of triggers, or sometimes wholly by chance. I'll send a text and tell that person I miss them and we'll reminisce and walk through a three-message catch up and promise to Skype. And then life happens, deadlines loom, and that Skype session gets delayed further and further.

It's not for lack of love, simply time and coordination. But there's another factor mixed in, and that's the idea that my self - my essence, my personality, my witty (cheesy?) quips, my love - sometimes feels like an exhaustible commodity. It takes energy, mental strength, and, most of all, time to build up those parts of myself that form a sociable human being.

We tell ourselves that the Internet and social media make it so easy to connect with others, stay in touch, share our lives with those we love. But what we didn't consider was what didn't change at all:

Us.

We're still human. We experience love and joy and euphoria on even the tiniest of scales. We also have pain and exhaustion and mental strain. No amount of Snapchatting can surmount the problem of stress and too little time and shifting lives. That last one is tough - the idea that not only do we just "get busy" but also drift apart in our most core similarities. People come to us when we most need them, and those shared experiences I spoke about bind us together in a manner that, at the time, seems unyielding and everlasting. But our paths diverge, be it by miles or continents, and gap widens before we even realize it.

I think reconnecting is possible and beautiful.

But the choice remains: when will be the last Snapchat be sent, seen, and go unreplied? Do we leave the ephemeral last "goodbye" to fade away when our phone reaches its storage limit? The state of technology makes us hyper-aware of a phenomenon that has always existed - the last goodbye (only now it's called "ghosting").

I argue that the last goodbye can be a beautiful thing, rather than a sad affair. Perhaps in twenty years you'll run into your old friend at an airport and know that the randomness of the universe brought you together again, and that's a lot more profound than maintaining a Snap streak just for the sake of it.

Elena

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