Something peculiar happened this past week and I’ve been thinking about it consistently ever since. As much as I’d like to say I’ve come here to share and bestow knowledge with the masses, I equally think I’m here to remind myself of just how big life is. While not only is life such an enormous concept, the world itself is so small too! You know, Toronto may be heavily overpopulated (just my opinion), but for anyone who has been here for 20+ years, you can never really escape your upbringing. You will no doubt continue to see familiar faces, visit recognizable places, and experience lingering events all from the past. However, I think we should be okay with this because the past is not a bad thing. The past reminds us of where we were, whether it was good or bad, in contrast to where we are now. If you are an overthinker like me and are always wondering what is going to happen next and when it will happen, then the past becomes a great reminder to stop worrying. At some point in the future, you will look back and realize how much you’ve grown and how much you’ve accomplished since then. What I think scares people, though, is that they might also look back and experience the opposite feeling; a sense of failure and frustration for not having accomplished more since then. Believe me, I get it… turning 30 was horrifying because of this very thought, and I had the pleasure of undergoing all kinds of negative emotions as a result. Alas, let me tell you today’s story and then you can see for yourself where I’m going with this.
One night I was indulging my regular assortment of social apps, which is a normal routine for me in boredom. While doing my searches, I came across a familiar face in one of the profiles. It was instantly that I recognized this person as someone I went to high-school with 13 years ago. Almost instinctively, I reached out and said hello, re-introducing myself since I’ve often been told I look completely different now from how I used to. In truth, the reaction I received was something like, “Wait… no… no way. OMG CHANDERBALLI?! Is that YOU?” Yes, yes, I discovered the magic of Moroccan hair oil and water-based concealer. Anyway, there was this instant connection that took place and without realizing it, we spoke for almost 5 hours continuously with no breaks. It was the first time in a long time I was captivated by a stranger, and I could tell the feeling was mutual. Yet, I think what made the critical difference was the fact that it was not really a stranger, but more an estranged friend from the past. Once we progressed from updating each other about our current situations, the bulk of the conversation centered around memories. At first we recalled friends we remembered well, teachers we wanted to bang, the best and worst classes we had, and etc…, but the conversation changed pace once we moved onto life after high-school. As both of us spoke in equal turns, I didn’t notice until much later that I was the one sharing all of the details about who ended up where and what not. It turns out my long-lost friend never maintained any contact with a single soul from the past. The discussion went deeper when I brought up another dear friend of ours who had passed away a few years back, which continues to be a fact only known to close friends. A reaction of shock and regret took over, and opened up the doorway to self-reflection for my friend, starting with the pain of missing out on these critical life events by burying the past. In truth, for my friend it was a rough road filled with bouts of depression, addiction, and loss all these years while I, on the other hand, was merely lucky to not have suffered as much. While I recognized this difference and felt justification for this person to have retreated into their own world, I think my friend mistook my knowledge of post-high-school events as actively being a good person dedicated to the people we once knew at that time. I was met with a lot of praise for being humble, honest, invested, and many more virtues based on the stories I shared, but to me, I never felt like I embodied above-and-beyond behaviors. I simply followed whatever information I saw on social media over the years and only got involved with people whenever it was applicable. My friend then expressed that I opened up a wound. This person I was speaking to changed so much from 13 years ago and is now nothing like the person I knew from those olden days. There was never any looking-back and almost no room for that old identity in the present. In fact, until I popped up this very night, that ‘old version’ was never thought of again. However, here I now appeared as an improved version of my old self, having kept everything in tact from the past, but developed into a success-story in the present with a big and ambitious future. To say the least, my friend felt anxious because I did something that was thought to be impossible.
In the coming days, we kept in touch and I began to learn more about this person, who yes, as mentioned, changed very drastically over the years. While we started to find more and more things in common that drew us closer together, the signs became clear that we were also at very different junctures in our lives. While I would partake in social events, my friend had retreated into a one-person world. While I would be fighting every day for the next career opportunity, my friend had worked in the same job for 12 years. While I would have crushed, dated, and fooled around quite a bit in my 20s, my friend had abstained from that life for over 5 years. Mind you, none of these things bothered me, and even thinking about it now, I didn’t want these differences to separate us; I wanted to immediately close that gap and make something of this rediscovered relationship, but obstacles continued to show up. The comparisons started to increase in volume, and no longer from just the past we shared, but even in other areas. My family relationships, my friends and social life, my dating and sex life, my work and career path, and my hobbies and experiences all started contributing to some form of insecurity. It was an insecurity about how much, again, I had progressed and advanced in my life over the past decade. Without realizing it, every story or anecdote I shared was like a puzzle piece fitting into my friend’s mind. I think the reason I didn’t realize any of this on the spot was because of how well my friend would converse in between about proud moments and accomplishments, but once moments of silence ensued, this verbal diarrhea of after-thoughts would start. Despite, we continued to chat on a nightly basis for hours at a time and eventually the topic of meeting up and chilling was put out there. While I still reside in jail with my family, my friend enjoys freedom and thus the invite to come over was extended. However, as we continued to troubleshoot when the best time would be to meet, my friend returned sentiments like, “I may not be what you are expecting… I don’t have people over often… I might not be the most engaging in conversation… I hope it’s not awkward… There is a chance I could scare you off.” Well, yours truly wasn’t going to give up so easily on what I interpreted as nervousness, so I suggested we have a phone call beforehand to make the vibe more comfortable. Shortly after, we ended up having our first verbal conversation and I feel like it went very well. I didn’t see the impending doom my friend had foreshadowed and we jumped from topic to topic very easily. We were also able to open up to each other about the challenges and hurdles we faced in the last few years and how we overcame them. For every secret I shared, a secret was returned to me in exchange and it felt liberating and exciting all at the same time. I felt like it was apparent this reignited relationship would stick, regardless of however one would define it. Eventually we both decided to call it a night and agreed to check our calendars to set a date in the weeks to come.
Before heading to bed, though, my friend decided to share one last secret with me; it was kind of like a heads-up, “Hey, you should know this about me…” Now, I’ve encountered a lot of unique people and unique situations in my life so far, even though I’d like to think I’m quite boring. I say this because there isn’t much that can surprise me or scare me at this point, and even if it does insight some fear in me, I know how to navigate myself towards safety. Suffice to say, the secret didn’t change anything for me, how I felt about this budding relationship, or about my friend. I made it very clear that I wouldn’t be running for the hills anytime soon. The response was this: “I’m sorry Sean. I feel that I’ve done something wrong. I should get going.” And we never spoke again.
Oh, you didn’t see that coming? Yeah, neither did I! Now, having had a week to mull it over, I’ve replayed the events in my mind and come to realize that I was not in the driver’s seat during this entire ordeal, and that is perfectly fine. Remember when I mentioned that life is very big? This situation does well to remind me that every interaction with every individual we meet is not always to play an integral part in our story. That is to say, we all often let our minds wander as to why certain situations happen to us and what the point of it all was, but like I mentioned earlier… I’ve been through quite a bit and have learned some things. I did not walk away from this situation scarred in any way because I’ve grown accustomed to not having high expectations. Then I thought about my friend and realized it’s 100% the opposite; this was a shattering experience. I was repeatedly told I opened a wound, but I didn’t quite see how deep it went. Even though I was worshipped about my great strides in life multiple times, I hadn’t noticed the void it was creating. The more we conversed, the bigger the proverbial blackhole grew, to the point where it sucked up this individual right at the end. I stirred feelings that had collected dust and shook the foundation of ignorant bliss this person had created, all by simply being me. Am I wrong for it? I don’t see how I could be, because at no point in our brief journey did I lie, embellish, or stray from the truth of who I was, who I am, and who I hope to become. Then why did this happen? Quite simply put, this didn’t happen for me; this was meant to happen for my friend and I was just a part of the process.
It happens every day, sometimes in the simplest ways. When you smile at someone in the street, or say thank you to a stranger… you trigger an event for the other person. You didn’t go out of your way or change anything about yourself, but you still shifted the energy around you. Think about walking into a room where everyone says hello to you with a big smile on their face, versus walking into a room where everyone stares at you in silence. The change in your mood, your feelings, and the fiber of your being is critical. We are all a part of a very big picture with many moving pieces, but everything always happens for our highest and greatest good. Sometimes good things happen to remind us to be happy and grateful, and other times bad things happen to teach us critical lessons. Regardless, the universe is always conspiring and putting things into play for every individual’s growth, and I firmly believe I had to come back into this person’s life for a reason. My friend, after over a decade of being alone on a single-trek path, needed to know that it’s okay to embrace the past. It’s okay to share vulnerabilities. It’s okay to lose friends. It’s okay to long for love. It’s okay to not have it all figured out. In the process of looking at me and my life, my friend freaked out about not being able to measure up, when in reality I often feel like I’m lost and without direction myself. The comparisons became the devil, and the lack of social interaction in so long resulted in over-sharing too quickly. I feel for this person, but at the time time, my greatest hope is that in between all of the anguish, pain, and confusion, there is a light at the end of the tunnel that becomes visible. It is never too late to turn life around and shape it into something greater, better, and more purposeful. I pray in place of intimidating that I’ve done more motivating instead. It’s become apparent that I will not hear from this person for a long time, if not ever again, but I’ve accepted that this is perhaps the way it was meant to be.
This story isn’t without any benefit or lesson to me either. While I’m convinced I was a part of the universe’s powerplay here, my friend did allow me to see my growth as well. What a profound experience it was to speak to someone who knew me all those years ago, but wasn’t around for the day to day progression. Think about those before and after pictures where you’re shown the results eons later and left speechless. I certainly experienced this otherworldly feeling too about my friend, and I want to make it clear that I don’t agree with the sentiment that I did anything better for myself. In fact, I was in awe of how much this person I was speaking to went through and overcame while I lived my life separately. I too played a bit of the comparison game and expressed how impressed I was. Yet, I chose to think about the past differently and appreciate that I’m not the same Sean as before. Where I might have doubted I was the same caliber of person or any better, this friend of mine reminded me of how far I’d come and what I’d brought to this world since our time together. Instead of relying on what I personally recall, someone else was able to construct a timeline of my journey and what it has all accumulated to be. My friend removed any doubts I had about the mistakes I made or missteps I might have taken. For the first time in a while, I was kindly reminded that I’m right where I am supposed to be.
In the end, all I can say is that I am grateful to you. These short few days I had with you were exactly what I needed, and I hope you received what you needed as well. Best wishes to you, my friend.