I was having dinner recently with a friend and his parents, and conversation came around to how we grew up–how very differently we lived as kids. He grew up largely in one house, in one neighborhood, and still has friends he knew as a child. There’s something appealing in that sort of stability, and something wonderful about being friends with someone you’d known as long as you might’ve a sibling, but who wasn’t. Shared stories, mutual histories, someone else, besides yourself, who is a witness to the work you’ve done to become who you are. I admitted that I’d always been sort of envious of that, and to someone’s sympathetic comment, I said, “Well, moving so often had its upsides. I became very self-sufficient.” My friend immediately said, “And lonely.”
I grew up in eight or nine houses, in eight different neighborhoods, in six different cities all before I graduated high school, and my oldest friend is someone I met in 2001, long after I’d absorbed this truth that was proved to me approximately every two years during my youth: people leave. That’s what they do. Technically it was I who left, but when promises of keeping in touch inevitably were forgotten, and the people I knew and had left behind still had each other, it amounts to the same thing. And he is right–it made me a lonely person. The loneliness is so much a part of me that it’s not something I notice usually. It’s impossible to separate from myself. It’s an integral part of what shaped me into who I am.
I expect people to leave. When I meet them, if, as often happens, we become friendly, even if, as sometimes happens, I love them to some degree, I never believe they won’t leave. The certainty of it doesn’t stop my heart from cracking when it happens, but what my childhood has also taught me is that I can live with the cracks.