There is something to be said about the time we spend together. There is also something to be said about the way we break bread with each other. And there is something to be said about our experiences we share or the struggles we go through. There is something about the memories we have and then somehow, the world moves us in different directions. What I mean is that suddenly, somehow, we move on and can almost become strangers.
I tell you, it’s a crazy thing.
I have been part of the adult working world for more than 30 years. I’ve been part of a system of living and part of a daily interaction with people whom I swore that I would know forever. We worked together. At times, we went through hell together. We ate together and shared details of our history with each other.
We bonded and we bled and yet, our circles changed or we moved on and now we hardly speak. If we speak at all, that is. While I claim them as friends; in fairness, there are friends of mine who’ve slid into the distance of time. All we are to each other are different systems of memory. It’s not that the memories aren’t important or happy enough. It’s not that the memories mean the same to us all or that we feel the same way (or not); however, memories have a way of sliding into the distance and time has a way of adding up. Days become weeks and weeks become months. Next, it’s a year or maybe more and then we think to ourselves, something like, “Oh yeah, I owe them a call,” but life picks up and the calls are never made.
I go back to the memory of a small pantry that I helped assemble and a sink that I connected for the first time in an old building. The work was not strange to me; however, the atmosphere was new because I was the “new guy” on the engineering crew.
I had just started my position as the 6:00am – 2:00pm stationary engineer in an old commercial office building. I was younger then. Of course, I was.
I had different intentions for myself. I saw myself differently; therefore, I had different stressors and different anxieties.
I was working with someone whom I had only recently met. He was kind to me. Funny. He laughed and as a person who’d already solidified his position in the engineering crew; he was comfortable with his position. But me, I was still trying to score points.
I was new, which meant that I had to survive my 90-day probationary period.
I was trying to earn my wings and prove my stripes, so-to-speak. But more, I was trying to impress upon the powers that be that I, Benjamin J. Kimmel, operating engineer extraordinaire, was in fact the right person for the job. However, in my anxious need to please or be accepted, I thought nervously and behaved nervously. I made nervous mistakes and each time, I thought to myself, “Nice going, numb-nuts!”
I was worried and anxious and there I was – I was on a job that was otherwise simple yet I was overthinking and overanalyzing every step I took.
Fortunately, I made it through.
I spent time with my new coworker who assured me not to worry. He assured me not to overthink or pressure myself and at the same time; we managed to laugh. We managed to happily make fools of ourselves and, above all, we managed to get the work done.
The pantry we put together is gone and no longer exists. It’s just a memory now. And my coworker no longer exists. He is retired now and to him, every morning is a Saturday morning.
While I say this and while I explain that together, my coworker became my friend – I can testify that we worked together and we spent time together. We certainly bled together and we definitely broke a sweat together. We experienced life in each other’s presence and pleaded our loyalty and friendship – and then one day, just like that, his locker was empty. His things were removed and all that remained were the remnants of things like say, a pantry we assembled or a job that I’d revisited with the memory of, “Oh yeah, I did this years ago when Vince was with me.”
It’s not that we didn’t mean anything to each other. I’m sure that if we saw each other or ran into one another, we would laugh and howl about the things we did. We would talk about the old memories. We would lend a hug to each other and, of course, I’m sure he would tell me, “Take care of yourself, kid.”
It’s not that we weren’t important to one another. It’s just the way life is and since we move in and out of each other’s lives like tides in the oceans of people, I have learned to enjoy the moments when the tides are high and the world is full – this way my memories are there to make me smile when the tides go out or when my friends move away.
I will tell you this: The world is always moving and time is always fleeting. Everyone we meet is a person in our lives who comes with at least one reason or another. I can say there are people who I’ve met – and while our interaction might have been brief, the impact of the lessons I’ve learned are priceless.
I am a firm believer that if you are my true friend then you are always my friend. However, I do accept that people come and people go. I have come to the understanding that not everyone is intended to stay in our lives forever. I have also come to the understanding that not all friends are good friends. Not everyone has the same intention or interpretation of friendships. Not everyone is good at calling or staying in touch; and though I understand this from an intellectual perspective, I used to take this personally. But not anymore.
Instead, I have learned to value my subjects of time. I have learned to value moments and memories and to celebrate them instead of weep for them when they are gone.
I have come to the understanding that there are more than 7 billion people in this world and while it is an impossibility to consider meeting all of them; it is possible to meet someone new, each day. While I do this, I can allow myself the chance to make a new friend or have a new experience.
By the way, the first time I met Vince, we had to install an air conditioner together. He held one side and I held the other. Vince was walking forwards and I was walking backwards. As I backed up closer to the wall, I realized that my left foot stepped on something and that I could feel my heel break through something plastic.
It was a fax machine . . .
This was my first day on the job and within minutes, I broke something.
HOLY SHIT! I thought to myself.
Vince laughed. I laughed nervously.
We never told anyone about this (until now).
Yeah, I guess I just miss my friend.
You’re going to meet a lot of people in this life.
Enjoy every one of them.
Trust me. It pays off in the end.