Between growing up in a low-income city and having my life sprinkled with the occasional abrupt, life-altering tragedy, I have lost a lot of people in a lot of different ways.
I’ve lost people in the obvious way, the kind where you watch them lowered into the ground and a small part of you is buried, too. I’ve lost people to distance, to the “We'll talk every day!” promises that fade all too quickly, or to losing touch, the world pulling us into different orbits. I’ve lost people, good people, because they decided, long before I let them go, that needles or bottles or pills eclipse love and security and life. And I’ve lost people by simply walking away.
As human beings, we are empathetic, nurturing, and dependent on one another. We are biologically designed to seek out different groups of people to help us survive—our friends and family, mainly—and stick with them. When there’s tension or letdown or heartbreak in any of our relationships, (friends, siblings, boyfriends) we’re designed to stay. And so we do, naturally, stay, standing by the people we love when they get sick or laid off or depressed; when they lie to us and hurt us and cheat on us. So rarely do we detach ourselves from the people we love for the sole reason that we love them. So rarely do we leave people behind; instead, with little exception, we are left behind.
I don't know much about being left behind. It's only happened to me once or twice—enough times to hurt, and enough times to learn: leave before you are left. Subsequently, I've let go of a few people that I was better suited holding onto.
Pride is a powerful thing, strong enough to keep two people meant to be in each other's lives apart indefinitely; forever. What's stronger, I believe, is regret. The stomach ache that comes months after you've cut someone off is always more powerful than the high you feel after you've severed all contact with someone you're "too good" for.
Losing and then missing someone that used to be a regular in your life forces you to go through all the motions, from the beginning stage, when you're heartbroken, lonely, and spiteful, absolutely determined to never speak to them again; to the end, where you look at old pictures and wonder who they are now, wincing at the fact that you'll probably never know.
It's bitter and it's bittersweet: our greatest lessons come from our greatest losses. And, in the past few months or so, I've learned a lot of great lessons.
I’ve learned that when you run away from someone, there’s always a small (desperate) part of you that wants that person to chase after you. I’ve learned that, for the most part, they don’t. I’ve learned that we are selfish, power-hungry, egotistical creatures so hell-bent on waiting for the other person to call that we’re always left bitter when the phone doesn’t ring.
I've learned that picking up the phone first doesn't kill you, and it doesn't make you weak. I've learned that there's a lot of value in any heartfelt "I'm sorry". I've learned that an unimaginable amount of regret—the kind that keeps you up at night—comes from never saying "I'm sorry" to the right people.
I've learned (perhaps the most powerful lesson) that when it comes to people, and when it comes to life, there is always more to be learned.