A couple of years ago, I had plans to hang out with a friend in the city. (Reminder: Every New Yorker calls only Manhattan “the city.”) Our meeting place was Barnes & Noble at Union Square — one of the few reliably available public bathrooms in NYC during the “pandemic.”
When the downtown N train pulled into the 14th Street/Union Square station, I de-boarded, and lo and behold: my friend was getting off the same train! I rode the N from Queens. She got on at Times Square. We unknowingly sat one train car away from each other over the course of four subway stops.
This coincidence reignited a contemplation I’ve often had about the randomness of life — and the synchronicities.
Who else was on that same N train? Perhaps it was Paul, the guy with whom I shared an office during the only (short-lived) 9-5 job I ever had in my life. Or maybe Janet was just a few seats away from me. She’s a girl I kissed in P.S. 112 schoolyard one summer night when I was 14.
At any point, while walking through Manhattan that day, I could’ve come within two blocks or two feet from a former classmate, former landlord, former co-worker, former neighbor, or former lover. The longer you live, the more “formers” you accumulate.
People come and go in your life. Even someone who feels indispensable and irreplaceable right now may grow estranged in the near future. Some of those people may circle back to cross orbits with you again. The truth is, none of us have a clue as to how long most of our connections will last.
Except for very rare instances, we can never even know if we’ve already spoken our last words to someone we know and love — all the more reason to treat people with respect, patience, kindness, and compassion.
People come and go in your life… often without rhyme or reason. This can be heart-wrenching. Such events can also enrich our existence. In some cases, they may provoke little more than a shrug. The only person who’s always there is you.
We all have things we don’t like about ourselves. We have regrets, doubts, and things that elicit guilt or shame. It’s an inevitable and normal part of the human condition — all the more reason to treat yourself with respect, patience, kindness, and compassion.
Everything I’ve ever experienced has already happened. But… the future remains unwritten. So, dig this: As I type this sentence, a stranger could be walking past the apartment building in which I live. I don’t know them yet but, within two weeks, two months, or two years, they may become someone very close and important to me.
In the meantime, despite life’s many fluctuations, all I truly have is right here/right now. And the only person who will always be there — in the here and now — is me. This makes me wanna start being a much better friend to myself.
How about you?