I live my life in a way that’s very different from most people.
I don’t own a car.
Or a house.
Or anything with a brand name on it.
I don’t have kids.
Or a dog.
I don’t have a stable career.
I don’t have a primary relationship.
And I definitely don’t have a fixed address.
What I do have is my freedom. I have endless options and opportunities. I have my whole life in front of me, and a deep desire to leave this world better than when I came into it. And while my life is full of purpose, focus and drive, it’s isn’t without fear.
The thing I fear the most? Being forgotten, left behind and alone.
When I stay in one place for a while I inevitably make friends. Deep connections that feel like they will last forever. But how can I possibly ensure that I’ll be able to remain in people’s lives if I’m not physically around? If we don’t see each other regularly, can we still be close? Can we remain friends? I’ve seen it dozens of times where I am in communication with a particular person or group of people because I’m geographically close to them. But as the miles on the map grow between us, so too do the length in between messages. And I understand. People have their lives. We get into our routines. We have too much going on. We forget to stay in touch.
I can see people putting down roots now and I completely get it. I see people building homes, and taking photographs with their families on the same front stoop every year, tracking the growth of their children. I see how those children change, and I feel sad that they might not remember me the next time I come home. Sometimes, I worry that if I don’t root down too, I’ll never grow to reach the same heights.
But here’s where I stop myself. No one journey on this planet is the same as another. It’s all so individual. The road to becoming who we are meant to be isn’t clearly cut. It’s a road that is littered with hardship, but fortunately it’s also strewn with friends who will help show you the way. Friends that become pivotal to our growth and our ability to change in the first place.
I don’t write this looking for pity, my life is mine completely by design. It’s a life that I’ve chosen. I write this more as a love letter. I want all the people I have been so blessed to call family, from all the places I’ve lived, to know that I haven’t forgotten them. In fact, I think of them often.
When my dad and sister make a terrible pun, I think of you, Kate.
Or when something great happens that I can’t wait to share, I think of you Lauren.
When I’m missing the ocean, I think of you Dannie.
When I’m down on myself and worried about what other people might think, I think of you Mel, and you remind me to hold on.
And when I think of the kind of boss I’d like to be some day, I think of you Jane.
I think of the places and people and the experiences I’ve had and the fear subsides.
All these people I’ve met, all these places I’ve been, have both burst and broken my heart wide open. It’s amazing to fill it so full, but it’s so painful to let go and move forward. And yet, every time I have to let go of someone I wish I could have held onto a little longer, I feel overwhelming gratitude. I’m am so lucky to have shared these stolen moments of joy and laughter, pain and growth. I’m glad I’m able to love so fiercely, to connect so deeply. What an incredible gift to have a heart that’s been given the opportunity to carry so many.
I think this is why I love yoga so much, because its these universal lessons that are all tied into the ancient philosophy of the practice. Yoga reminds us of the importance of ‘Aparigraha’ or the ability to detach from things when the time has come. We are also reminded that we can’t go our whole lives living an only partial existence. We need to know when and to what we need to hold onto. We need to dance eternally on the line between the two. Sometimes we’ll miss a step, falling out of line, but we’ll always have this balance to guide us. In that, the list of people I call family will continue to grow, but it will also shrink. And that’s okay.
As I sit here getting ready to leave the country again on another one-way ticket, I’m reminded of what my friend Camille said to me when I was leaving Costa Rica. We were huddled together with my other girlfriends on the yoga platform where I had been taught so much. I expressed through my tears that I was afraid of going back, I was afraid of losing everything I’d learned, of becoming the person I didn’t want to be again. Camille hugged me and whispered, “You can never go back. It’s not possible.”
About a week later when I arrived back in Canada, I was having a beautiful, soul shaking conversation with someone I had just met on the BC coast. We started talking about relationships and I mentioned that I wondered if the big one in my life was as big for him as it was for me. “Sometimes I think I didn’t mean anything to him at all,” I said. “I wonder if he just forgets we were ever together.”
“Emma,” she said, smiling. “You aren’t the type of person anyone could forget.”
I cry now as I type this, because she tapped into a deeply rooted insecurity of mine that day. It seems somewhere along the way I’ve learned that if I’m not memorable, it will mean I was never there at all.
Are our experiences any less experienced simply because the memory of them might eventually fade? Or course not.
We are the sum of our experiences, yes. But no single interaction, relationship, event or lack thereof defines us.
And as I continually remind myself, we can never go back. Only forward.