on beads and sunburns

Yesterday I spent several hours pulling weeds and followed it with some time at the river. It left me with sore muscles, a wicked farmer's tan and some well-mulled-over thoughts.

[luckily i still had my hospital band on, making the awkward burn even more awkward]

I thought a lot about how I am a bad friend.

I'm a bad letter writer, I'm bad at replying to Facebook messages, I rarely keep in touch with people that I don't see on a daily basis, and there are very few people who consistently get responses to texts they send. I've always thought it was a terrible quality in myself. Because there are a lot of people that I really, really love that I just don't keep in touch with. Not to brag or anything, but uh...i know a lot of people. And that is something I am sincerely grateful for.

I know people from kindergarten and my soccer team and people from Germany and girl scouts and that one flight attendant I met that one time, people in Hawaii and Alaska and Maine—I've been privileged throughout my life to meet so many people. And the majority of them have made some sort of impact on me—big or small, life changing or just enough to have created a memory.

When I look back at different times in my life, or when a seemingly insignificant memory pops up out of nowhere, it feels like I've left a piece of myself with them. It's like we all have a pocketful of beads that represent us—who we are, what we do, what our dreams are, what we're willing to do to accomplish them. We dole out those beads like it's nobody's business. Every time we introduce our self, every time we tell a story, every interaction that leaves an impression, we're constantly leaving pieces of our self with other people.

Sometimes giving them away hurts. We give them away when we make mistakes, when we embarrass ourselves, when we fail at something or disappoint people. Sometimes giving them away is too exciting; when we prematurely dish out a bead and then decide we don't really want that person to have that bead after all, or when we're too eager to trust people that maybe shouldn't be trusted, or when we throw those dang beads at people who don't even want them. We're creating impressions of ourselves, things that people may or may not remember for years to come.

Sometimes I think about my life, all the people I've given metaphorical beads to, the people I've taken beads from. I think about the person who taught me to jump stairs on roller blades, the people whose lives I've tried to imitate, the boy in fourth grade who liked my pants that i thought were ugly, the children I've babysat for, my past employers, my classmates, people that I gave compliments to, the people i was mean to, the good, the bad, the ugly. It's impossible to know who still hangs onto those beads–who remembers you, what you did and what you said–and it's impossible to take them back. But we go on still, dishing them out to people every day.

A few weeks ago one of these beads was returned to me. A friend from a few years ago had a playlist of songs that i really loved once but had lost in the accident [the last copy of that playlist was on an unrecovered ipod]. Not a big deal to most people, but a huge deal to me. I had back something that I'd forgotten I'd lost. And it meant a lot to me. And I thought about how maybe giving out these beads can sometimes benefit us. The way people remember things for us that we don't remember about ourselves. And sometimes when you don't really expect it, these friends and these memories come back and remind us that hey, you used to like this, you used to hate that, you used to be really good at this.

And this little exchange of beads is what keeps life–our personalities, our social interactions–flowing in a circular motion. Because nothing is really the end. We keep looking back at pictures, keep replaying memories over and over, reminisce with friends, regret poor decisions. We tell other people these stories–"I knew this guy once...", or "when I was seventeen..." and we pass on these pieces, letting others remember while we may forget. And then we dig in our pockets to fish out some more beads, hoping that this time we'll be wiser. That maybe this bead will be perceived as something rare, something cool, a bead that someone will hold up to the sun to examine with more beauty, and that it will be desired or appreciated, that it will be different this time. We'll probably mess up again and we'll probably look back in five years and cringe at what we're doing right now. God bless you if you have a bead from me. Also, I am so sorry.

1 comment:

  1. 1. I love my Bridian beads, so kindly hold the apologies.
    2. "Because nothing is really the end." as so many seemingly final things have occurred in my life as of life it is nice to hear these words in the context of this life itself.
    3. I missed your writing. In the least it is entertaining, at most it soothes my soul.