People come and go in life: your childhood neighbors, high school acquaintances or sweethearts, adult coworkers and college friends. A select few (or more) important people will stay for a little longer, but most of the people you’ll ever meet eventually disappear from your immediate life. Thinking about it all feels a bit sad. I’m at the point in life where most of the classmates whom I’ve spent my whole life around have begun to fade into memory for the foreseeable future, and ultimately, I know some of them will likely never be in my life ever again — but is that really true?
Even as they physically move out of our lives, the people we meet can never truly leave us. Every person leaves some sort of impact on us — small things like recurring thoughts and impressions, little habits or turns of phrase, or more significant and deeply held ideologies, defining personality traits and so much more. I got my love of walking and nature from a still-closely held childhood friend; I use another family friend’s method of cooking eggs nearly every day; I hung around another acquaintance long enough to pick up some of their vernacular — end some of my statements with “..., yeah?”. Even my most basic ideas and opinions of the world have been collaboratively shaped by so many people I’ve only met a few times — and will likely never see again. There’s some solace, though, in knowing that they’ve made this impact and a part of them lives on in my identity forever. It’s a kind of comfort in knowing that people and relationships can live on indirectly in more than just direct memory.
Even more, it’s fascinating to think about the far-reaching impacts of these little learned quirks and behaviors — after all, the people I’ve learned from must have also been shaped by those around them, and I will no doubt go on to influence other people in the future as well. I wonder how much I’ve left behind for other people to remember me by and what rippling effect that will have, whether knowingly or not. Ultimately we are all a reflection of one another — each a patchwork of things we have gathered from those we’ve met or felt or loved, all molded together to create an identity that is still somehow uniquely our own. It’s all too easy to feel significant and lonely sometimes, and I take some comfort in thinking about just how intertwined I am, and always will be, with those I care for around me.