Today is my first boyfriend’s 40th birthday (“J’). We met in my Freshman year of college in 1989. he was the first boy I ever kissed and we dated through the second half of my freshman year and a little ways into the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. I completed a second year at the same college, during which time we were mostly estranged (after our break-up.) I left college after my second year and had not heard from or seen him again until last year when we reconnected on Facebook, 20 years after I had seen him last. A little on-line chatting led to a dinner which led to him joining our bowling league, where I now see him once a week. I have gotten a kick out of the fact that, on Sunday night’s, I am in the same room with my first and last boyfriends.
For his birthday, he posted a Youtube video slide show of photographs throughout his life and let those of us , who appeared in one or more of the photos, know that we might see ourselves if we wanted to take a look. Sure enough, I was in a photo we had taken with a group of his friends when we visited his hometown during our dating period. This reminded me of the one and only pic I had of us (the picture above – that’s him in the middle at the top and me in the far right bottom corner) so I found it and scanned it and posted it to his Facebook wall to add to his collection.
Of course, I had to look through the small bin of photographs I have to find it, and so I did a small walk down memory lane of my life as I sorted through pics from high school, college, trips, marriages and various other moments in time. It amazed me the number of people in those photographs that are no longer a part of my life or who were once such a big and important part of it and now we are barely acquaintances who rarely see each other. I wondered about each of them as I saw their pics: where are they now? what are they doing? are they in relationships? are they happy? do they ever think of me or would they remember me?
My mind began to wander, as it often does, and I imagined having a big reunion of everyone I had ever befriended or dated. Assuming I could actually find everyone, who would come? Who would have good things to say? Who would have bad? Would/could any of those relationships be rekindled? Would I want them to be? Would they all accept and like me now for who I am as opposed to who I was? Am I ever part of their stories, for better or for worse? And if all these people have moved on and are no longer part of my life, will the same thing happen with those people I currently share a friendship with? How many people that I see regularly now will eventually fade from my life, only to be remembered when I start looking though old photos? Will they be here in a month? A year? 10 years?
I have learned that even the most seemingly solid relationships can crumble at the slightest provocation or fade with enough distance and time. Friendships that seem so special and important to us now can be just a memory in years to come as time and tide, situation or circumstance move us into different directions or frames of mind. It has taught me to be grateful for the people and moments as they are, here and now, without worrying about the future and who will be in it. I’m not usually a particularly nostalgic person, so I rarely long for the past. I do, however, tend to think (and, honestly, sometimes worry) about the future…where I will go, what I will become, what will happen to me and who will be along for the ride. I know not everyone stays in our past and not everyone makes it to our future and, in the end, we have no real control over any of that. All we can do is wait and see and, until then, just appreciate people for who and what they are while they’re here and do our best to let them know how special they are to us while we can. There are some people I miss; there are some people I don’t; and there are some I’m sure I will (and won’t) some day. But they are all part of my journey, all part of my story and I am who I am partly because of having had them in my life, for whatever reason, to whatever degree, for whatever length of time. I hope, in some small way, I have been a special part of their story too.