It was a world where nobody knew which way to go because there were a million destinations and no maps or road signs, and we had to trudge it by foot. A world where we passed by thousands of other people just like us, that breathed the same air and yet seemed to inhabit different worlds and exist in their own universes. I was trying to figure it out, trying to make some sense, trying to shape a life.
I knew deep down though that no matter what clothes I wore or what kind of haircut I got or what music I listened to, I was still confused inside. I was still the same kid I'd always been. No matter how put together I looked on the outside, inside I was still just as screwed up as ever. Would I ever escape that?
Some people say you are the sum of your memories.
Some people say you are a little bit of everybody else and everybody else is a little bit of you.
Some people say you can never fully know another person.
Some people say that we're reincarnated when we die, and we just cycle throughout time.
I don’t know, and I don't think I can know. Those are just the kind of rabbit holes your mind falls into when you can't sleep at night and you're just staring up at the fan blades circling round and round while your mind flashes from thought to uncontrollable thought.
I do know that memories are fragile things, and that in them, the most insignificant moments become monumental and feelings are warped and metamorphosed into something totally different than what they were at the time. After the smiles fade, the song ends, and the lights go out, I crawl under the covers and stare at the ceiling hanging over my head, all dark and incomprehensible. The moment I close my eyes, my mind awakes to form dreams that paint every sunrise, turn lust into love, despair into joy, and regret into satisfaction. In my dreams, I am who I want to be, surrounded by my family and friends. They're all there, smiling, wearing nice clothes, and happy to be alive. The sky is blue and my favorite song is playing in the background, faint, just enough to hear the lyrics. So I shout them to the clouds, and I wake with a smile that slowly fades, until I'm staring at the same ceiling still waiting above, silently, forever.
It seemed to me like there were periods in life of incredible significance, where so many things were happening and so many people were spiraling in and out of your orbit that the uncertainty became intoxicating. You got high on the feeling that things mattered – that you mattered – until the moments faded, and they became replaced by the commonplace, the familiar, the rut.
In those times, when the world became ugly, I had to change my vision and focus on the small things, and that's where you always find the beauty. In the way a cat chases after a fly or the light in peoples' eyes when they talk about someone they truly love or how the stars we see every night have already died and yet the light still travels on. The beauty of the world was that it was not happy or sad, but wondrous, operating outside of time itself. The world was here before time, before us, before the first breath of life, and it would continue to beat on long after we are all gone. And that put my problems into perspective.
I'd always thought the greatest tragedy of life was our inability to know each other. There were millions and millions of people I would never meet, women I would never be able to love, men I would never be able to befriend, people I would never be able to meet or know or learn from. They were born in different countries or centuries and I would never be able to know who I would be if I had met them, or who they would be if they had met me. The billions and billions of human interactions that had not happened twirled into an infinite web. The ancient people believed in the Fates, who spun our lives into threads that twisted with others only to be inevitably cut. I always thought about who I would be if I had been born to a different family, in a different state or country or lifetime. Would I still be me? Who was I but an amalgamation of all the people I'd known, who'd influenced me in ways I could never imagine, who'd shifted my life's path?
That's the stuff that I think about at night, the kind of stuff that stays trapped inside me while I fumble for words. I like to think that many other people think about these same things, and many other people never worry about things like that, and that neither was better than the other, only different.