I had a bit of an epiphany one spring night about eight years ago. It wasn’t something I had no idea of before, it just kind of came together in words for once. The scary thing about this is, like so many other big realizations in life, I tend to forget. You know that clip of Joey and Phoebe in Friends? “This is brand new information!” My brain is like that with entirely too many things.
But I digress. My twenty-nine year old epiphany was: I may not have grown up, but I have moved on.
I’m going to look at this with the perspective of eight more years. At my core, I’m just as goofy, dorky, and immature as I’ve always been. That’s why those traits are core ones – they don’t change. They are what makes me who I am.
As an almost-thirty year old, I could no longer relate to some of the people who were once so important to who I was. And today, as a thirty-seven year old, some of the people who were here (in my life) and aren’t anymore fall into that group as well. A close friend who happened to be present when I had this epiphany is, in fact, no longer here, so, I guess you could say there was a plot twist…
Life has proven to me that people come in and out of your life for a reason, even if there seems to be none. Being the egocentric people we are, we usually think that people entering and exiting are here (or not here) explicitly for us. We don’t stop to think that maybe we are the ones who are in their lives for a particular reason, and for a particular time. When they’ve benefited from whatever it is they learn from us, they may pull away. And that’s okay. Because we’re all doing that – drawing from, learning from, giving, receiving, pulling or pushing away.
The fact that I can’t relate anymore, or the feeling that certain characters bring too much drama into my circle? It’s fine to feel that way. It doesn’t make me right or you wrong. We can both be right, but not right for each other. It’s all right for me to no longer feel the bond that brought us together. It’s absolutely possible that the bond dissolved. It’s a certainty that you will outgrow some of your friends, after three months, three years, or three decades.
If there’s a purpose for everyone, then naturally we get there by very different paths. What I’m trying to come to terms with – still, even as I get closer to forty – is the fact that (shock of shocks) the world does not revolve around me, my choices, and my beliefs. That which I don’t like or agree with, is not necessarily wrong. It’s just not right for me.
We’re here for such a short time. Why are we all so worried about everyone else’s choices? Why aren’t we more concerned with our own? Whether you choose to have eight children or work at the Quick Stop for the rest of your life, the only one you have to make happy is you. The only one I have to make happy is me.
(To be clear, if someone else’s choices are hurting someone – or many someones – else, that’s a different story. If your happiness comes at the expense of someone else, we need to talk. Some other time, though.)
There have been people in my life that I thought would always be here. Some have gone. Some are here, but in a different role. Some have proven to be more important in teaching me about myself than I ever thought they would. Some walked off the stage in pivotal scenes.
It’s all okay. Instead of criticizing people or being passive-aggressive about them, or judging their choices, I need to look at them and learn from them. And I hope that in my own choices and mistakes, I’m teaching others as well.
It’s a lesson I’m trying to teach myself each day. Habits are hard to break, even if I had an epiphany eight years ago and forgot about it somewhere along the way. I guess forgetting is one of those habits.
Moving on from what used to be common ground: that’s what this comes down to. It’s okay to move on. It’s survival to move on, and not sit still. So, I’m moving on. The looking back part is what slows me down.
This essay was originally written in April, 2008. It is published here with edits.