One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned since living in Ecuador is that friendships, even ones you think are forever, sometimes fall apart. Sometimes one person is more to blame, and sometimes it’s just a natural effect of being far away from each other. Maybe those relationships can be revived in the future, or maybe they can’t. Those of you who have moved away from friends might be able to relate. Here is a letter I wrote to a friend who disappeared from my life, whom I miss dearly. Minor details have been changed to protect identities as needed.
It is hard to believe, but in 11 days I leave Ecuador. In 12, I arrive in California. This year has been both short and long. I think that time is particularly strange when you live abroad. I wonder if you felt that way, too, after your year in Europe.
I’m writing to you because I will be home for about three weeks before I leave for Mozambique. If you are interested in catching up with an old friend, let me know. I’ll definitely be in the Bay a couple of times. Tarika is still there, as is *****-two people I’ve kept in touch with, one less surprising than the other. Funny how a disastrous hookup turned into one of my closer friends. Life is mysterious.
I also am writing to you because of Tiny Beautiful Things. I remember when you gave that beautiful book to me when I was going through a tough time a couple of years ago. Ahh, boys. Ha. I heard he tried hooking up with a friend of mine this past year…when they were both in relationships. I guess I dodged a bullet there. Regardless, back to TBT. I ordered a copy to have Laura’s husband bring when he came to Ecuador at the end of June. I bought it because my boyfriend and I are breaking up, not because I don’t love and care for him, but because I can’t stay for him. If we meet up in person, I can tell you more. But I wanted to leave him with heart medicine, and I remembered how perfect TBT was for me in my time of need. I’m particularly reminded of the story about the ghost ship that is beautiful but was never ours. I think that this moment is like one of those, and I’m so grateful to you for having given me the gift of the comfort of Cheryl Strayed’s words to lean on and to help me verbalize truths within myself. I was going to annotate the book for him, but after some reflections I think each person has to find their own meaning in her words (though “The Future has an Ancient Heart” will always have a special place in MY heart because I know you loved that one, and told me to read it first). I would be curious to hear which other stories speak to you. I feel like they might change over time, depending on where you are in life at a given moment.
I think of you somewhere between “sometimes” and “often”. I wonder what you’re up to. I know from Tarika that you were still around Berkeley as of a couple months ago, but I am curious as to what you are doing. What your plans are. Where your dreams are taking you. Are you hiking the PCT like you hoped? Are you going to grad school, and if so, for what? Has it become clearer for you re: writing vs acting? Have you had any of your profound realizations lately? Imparted any wisdom? Seen any witches up at the Clark Kerr track? Made peace with your family? Found any new favorite hikes or walks?
Most often, though, I wonder what happened to our friendship. I wonder if I ruined things before I ever left, by being so preoccupied about maintaining communication while I’m away. It’s interesting. I thought I would keep in touch with six people from Cal, including you. But I’ve only consistently had contact with three. Being away has made me realize, more than ever before, the impermanence of everything in life–romantic relationships, “home”, how you spend your time, the person you are at a particular moment in life–even friendships. I have come to use the term “soul friends” to describe my close friends who have stayed around this past year. I think I believe in soul friends, but not soul mates. Friends so profound they can tell the difference between your changes/growth and when you’re just not being yourself. Perhaps we aren’t soul friends, or perhaps distance in time and space have just taken their natural toll. Or maybe we already had outgrown each other before I left. I’m not sure. And I don’t think anyone is to blame.
But regardless, I wanted to write you one last time and tell you I appreciate the profound friendship that we had. I honestly feel that I learned so much just through knowing you. I cherish all my friendships, but especially those with people who are very different from me–in ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio economic status, and life experiences in general. Our friendship broadened my perspective, and challenged my views. It also brought me joy, the value of which can never be underrated. And for that, I will be forever grateful for you, even if we were just meant to pass through each other’s lives for a brief moment.
Wishing you the best in whatever you are doing.
Love and peace,