I see your profile on Facebook and I’m hit with a pang of nostalgia. I remember when you were my best friend. I felt safe talking with you, and I felt like we really understood each other. Those were the heady days of youth, when we could do no wrong. You and my youth are so enmeshed that I can’t pull the two of you apart. I miss it, and I wonder if that’s the same as missing you.
I think about messaging you and decide against it. Our roads diverged because we wanted them to do so, and I’m not ready yet to reconnect. With you, there were always big plans, big conversations, and big philosophical discourses about the world and how it works. Now, I’ve downsized. I’ve gotten simpler, more stable, less articulate. I’ve traded in those big, fancy dreams for a beautiful and intricate reality, and I fear you’ll look down on me for doing so.
We were kids when we were friends. Idealism ran through our veins and we lived off of a heady mix of arrogance and intelligence. We sampled life by cautiously picking at our plates with our noses in the air, and made reservations to one day, with abandon, lick those same delicious platters clean. We knew we were destined to rule the world.
Some days, I still feel that way. Some days, I wake up and even though the context has changed, my story still feels the same; it still reads like the tale of an underdog winning the championship, and I still feel on top of my game.
Undoubtedly, though, the game has changed. On days like this, when the weather reminds me of brisk autumn afternoons in New York City, I can’t help but think of my youth, and you, and where I thought I’d end up in life, and where I find myself. On days like this, when the Philippines reminds me of home, and I can almost smell yellow taxis burning rubber on tarred city streets, I’m glad I’m so far away from where I come from. I’m glad I’m making good on some of my potential, and doing the best I can with the life I’ve picked out for myself. I’m glad that I’m living far away from you and the days of my youth; it would be too painful to see reminders of who I was and who I could have become.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Sometimes, I’m certain that the reason I live with my balls out to the wind is so that I don’t have to feel the sting of my past. I’m too busy living that I don’t get to sit back and reminisce about all of my yesterdays. I’ve become disconnected to that girl who used to be your best friend. I don’t know her, and I doubt she has any clue what to make of me.
I say I don’t have any regrets, and the only reason that’s undeniably true is because the act of regret takes the ability to take a good, hard, and honest look at your life and analyze all of it. I can’t do that right now. I’m juggling too many knives, running through an impossible obstacle course, and keeping my head above a rising tide. I can’t lose sight of my intended prize, or I’ll end up wasting my time. I want only to achieve something tangible and socially-acceptable, and I’m aware of how non-sensical that sounds. There was a time when I knew better than to want to assimilate; now, I feel as if I’m racing toward some grand consolation prize, and the only reason it’s worthwhile is because everyone tells me so.
You would tell me to drop out of that race. You’d say that I’m not being me. You’d know that all of this is an attempt to be the best version of myself, but the truth is, I’m really being someone else. I miss having someone who knew that version of me, I miss looking into your eyes and seeing that girl who was so unbelievably ballsy and arrogant and head-strong that people had to sit up and take notie of her. I miss being able to call on someone who would conjure her up like a ghost.
Still. Given the option, I wouldn’t go back. Not because I don’t miss it, or because I don’t miss you, or because I don’t miss the person I used to be, but because that girl that was your best friend? She isn’t me anymore. The real me is hidden underneath all of the plans, all of the work, all of the hardships and compromises and life lessons that are being thrown at me every second of every minute of every day. She’s stewing in the juices of yesterday; marinating in the blood, sweat and tears of today; simmering in the hope for a better tomorrow, and will make an appearance one day, when I’m done with this phase of my life and back in New York and better than ever. She’ll peel off the tough skins and dried pulp and hard knocks and feel new and revitalized and positively real. I know it. In the meantime, I sit and feel the winds change and find the energy to remember you and my youth, and to smell change in the wind and remember autumn in New York. I sit here and know that despite my doubts and second guesses, I’m exactly who, what, and where I’m supposed to be.