There are many harsh things about life. The one people grapple with most is death, of course, but I see another that’s worse in many ways.
It’s horribly unfair that we usually cannot live near our friends. When we are children we are stripped from close relationships because our parents had to move, or because their parents had to move. And these decisions in turn hinge on mundane things like company x needing someone in Wichita, or, as it often turns out, not needing someone in Wichita anymore.
So, as if it were a minor thing, worlds are ripped from each other. Two friends that used to live near each other suddenly don’t, and in the past this basically meant that person would cease being your friend. Even today, with all the technology we have, there is no substitute for being able to see someone physically, on a regular basis, for nurturing a close relationship.
I’ve been stung by this many times in my life. A couple years ago it was a friend that I used to work with in Florida. We were security consultants together living in a city away from home, and we were stressing about how cheaply we could live since we also had a place where our women were back home.
We soon realized that our senses of humor were a brilliant match, and we had many similar political views and musical tastes (metal). We had lots in common, actually, but it was really the sense of humor that made it unique. So within like a couple days I said, “Dude, we seem to get along; let’s just share a place.” He agreed instantly.
We had this arrangement for around three years–us doing va/pentest work together all the while finding humor in nearly everything. It was the kind of humor where once it got going, we had to exert ever effort not to make a scene. It was awesome. Breaking into stuff, getting paid, and laughing like kids at most everything.
But he had a wife and a couple of kids a few hours away, and I had my girl out of state as well. After a while it was getting really hard to be gone from them all the time. Finally, one day, he said he was taking a job back home, that he had to get back to the family.
It was completely understood; we’d talked about it for at least a year, and I was already thinking about doing the same myself. But there was a catch.
Neither of us really like talking on the phone much. He is particularly against it, though. And neither of us are really into writing emails or anything. The relationship was simple: it was really cool hanging out all the time when we lived and worked together, but once it came to an end, that was going to be the end of it.
So I helped him finish packing up that last time and we looked at each other as we prepared the mandatory handshake. He spoke first, while holding out his hand:
Well, that was something.
There was only one response really.
Yes. Yes it was.
What we were really saying, of course, was that it was finished. The sense of humor and jokes and laughing…it was all over. Not diminished. Not reduced. Not minimized. Over.
It wasn’t really that sad then because we were moving on to new things and life was good, but I new it would be later. And it is now.
It’s sad that physical distance can rob people of relationships. I want to be able to laugh with my buddies when I want to. When I see something cool I want to show all my friends. But I can’t.
And for me, an atheist who doesn’t want kids, my life is the sharing of things with friends. It’s not raising children or spending time at Church for God. No, it’s laughing and enjoying music, or debate, or whatever…with those I share interests with.
This is the saddest reality. Not death, but the limits placed on living life. You can’t be with your friends because they can’t afford to live in this neighborhood anymore. Or they need to take a job in Wyoming. Or they get married and have to live where their wife’s family lives. Or, as adults, they’re just too poor to come visit you or even leave their city limits very often. So any time you see them will be you going there, for a short time of course, since you’re similarly bound by your own work/life limitations.
I’m not sure if you’ve ever had one of those talks in high school–a life talk–from some experienced person who’s “been there” and “seen things”. They pile everyone into the gym and give the guy a microphone, and he says things like, “You’ll be missing this time before long.”, or, “You just completed the easy part of your life. It gets harder from here.”
Well, what I’d say to a group of kids if I ever have such a microphone would be different. I’d tell them to live their lives so that they have maximum freedom. So that they could choose to go and live in Seattle with their friends if they so desired. I’d tell them to not blindly accept a life path set by tradition, which states that you forfeit being without your friends so that you can live near your spouse’s parents (which you dislike).
Don’t settle. Don’t lock in to pre-forged life molds. Recognize that your friendships are what matters, and that unless you actively do something to counter the effect, life will snatch them from you at random.
I miss my friends. I want to share more with them. It angers me that my great friends from the various times in my life will never meet each other. Why? Because they don’t have the time to get away. And plane tickets are so expensive.
Bullshit. These are obstacles that should not stand in the way of life experience. Of sharing time with those who find the same things interesting and humorous.
Sure, death can have me when I pass, but in the mean time I will fight to be able to spend time with those I wish to. I will not settle for the life given to me by the corporate machine, or by the invisible bonds that accompany the traditional view of marriage.
I will remain free to travel, and to experience, and to laugh. And most importantly, to bring those things back to my friends, wherever they are, so that they can enjoy them as well. ::