Living Outside the Parentheses

“The thing that is hardest to accept about the passage of time is that the people who once mattered the most wind up in parentheses.”
ā€” John Irving

The trade-off for getting to live in lots of different places, is that you end up leaving a trail of people you love wherever you go. What starts out as a twice a year visit back ends up being a relationship defined by Snapchat and the occasional drunken text message. Then you lose your phone along with their number, and you see that they’re getting married soon, but you won’t be invited back for the wedding, because you probably won’t be able to come, and you’re not part of that community anymore. You’re in parentheses and the effort that it would take to get out of them is more than you’re able to make.

There are good friends and family members that we don’t put in parentheses, because of shared history, because we remember the way their apartments smell and their favorite mug and the things they do when they are nervous. It takes more than time to close that relationship. You still miss them and you still love them, but you keep the parentheses opened with phone calls and long emails, punctuated by a visit or a care package.

But what I have been mourning the most is the loss of acquaintance friends: the people you would have been closer too had there been more time. They’re the former roommates, the ex-boyfriends’ friends, the people who were shy or tougher to crack. You see pictures of them and think: “I could be there,” but you’re not, so you can’t. You leave them behind with the place itself.

This is how I know I’m not cut out for a traveling lifestyle. I like the change and I need to leave my home and my comfort zone every once and a while. But I love people and places too quickly and too easily to be able to leave without a thought. I want to be the kid that has 10 good friends AND one best friend, because I’ll never be able to choose. My biggest sadness is that I’ll never get to know every person that I want to know and I can’t hang on to every person I want to hang on to. I’m only 24 and already I can think of at least a dozen of people that I wish I still had in my life but can’t. The parentheses are closed and to open them would require a move or a miracle.

In my perfect world I can have everyone I’ve ever loved all around me, I can kiss all the boys, I can go to all the weddings and have an equal share in the lives of everyone whose company I’ve ever enjoyed. In the real world, I can do the best that I can with the tools that I’ve got. The parentheses may close, but parentheses are still opened on the top and on the bottom. And on the top and the bottom I will soar and sink and circle the people in the middle.

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