Throughout our lives, we make thousands of connections with people we meet, the places we experience, and the things we hold on to that make us feel whole, safe, or equipped to live the life we live. Without those connections, we are like boats on the ocean without a tether to keep us safe and anchored in a storm. When we feel connected, it resonates with us that we have, or had, a sense of purpose for a time, though there is nothing to prove that’s true.
All my life, I have felt a heightened sense of connection. I only say this because in talking to my friends about it, they don’t feel a bond between them and other people, places, or things in the way I do. It’s one more thing that sets me apart, and that I rarely talk about because of the looks, judgment, and comments I have gotten over the years when I have opened up about it. It can come across like hocus pocus or cosmic new age rhetoric, but for me, and in my experiences, it has felt very real.
As I condense my possessions and begin considering what I need to keep and what’s baggage, I remember everything surrounding every item. In many cases, I remember the day, who I was with, what made me buy it, and the times I have used it since purchasing. When I bring something, or someone, into my life, my mind begins to catalog all the tiny details that can easily be overlooked. With those that I care about, it happens without me realizing, making it hard to forget when I need to or want to. Sometimes those connections go on a kind of pause. The link is still there, but you aren’t actively interacting with it. It happens a lot with adults as our priorities shift for varying reasons, but it doesn’t mean the connection isn’t as strong as it once was. I’ve thought a lot about people I’ve lost touch with, either by design or through the fate of time for reasons unknown. There is always a pang of underlying regret, regardless of the circumstances.
I previously mentioned a friend I met while interning at Walt Disney World, Angela. She was a kindred spirit who also felt like she was a bit like a fish out of water, living in a world that didn’t understand her uniqueness. We connected on that point. We had very different backgrounds, likes, and dislikes, and had very little in common, but we had a connection that neither of us could deny. In our friendship, we mutually supported each other and could chat for hours about the most random topic, exploring all the corners of a subject that others wouldn’t spend the time on. During our internship and a few years after, we stayed close, but our lives had changed a lot. We were no longer in college and had less time to spend chatting about the world. There was a period when we stopped talking, and then one day, I had a feeling that something was horribly wrong.
I began calling her apartment and mobile phone to talk to her, but there was no answer. I did this over a couple of days and still no response. I knew something was wrong. She had recently moved to Eastern Washington for a new job and was living independently without a support system for the first time in her life. I started calling around to our mutual friends. No one had heard from her recently. It became a mission for me to get a hold of her, for whatever reason, the feeling I experienced was so strong that I knew there was more to her disappearance than something basic.
I remembered that on the day of her graduation, I had called a few people in her life to coordinate the party after the ceremony. I looked up my phone bill and began calling all the numbers from that day. One of those people was her ex-boyfriend, who luckily still had her mother’s phone number, so I called her Mom. She gave me the news that my suspicions were correct, and Angela wasn’t well. After a long conversation, I decided to drive out to Eastern Washington to Angela’s apartment, where her Mom was staying. I wanted to help her through the situation and see if I could visit Angela in the hospital. Her Mom was also dealing with cancer, so she didn’t have all the energy to take on the weight of the situation. Looking back on that time, I think I provided the support I could muster, considering the circumstances, but I always wished I could have done more. I wasn’t able to see Angela that weekend due to doctor’s orders, which pained me. I could only stay a couple of days, but I planned to return the following weekend and continue helping where I could. By then, Angela would be well enough for visitors.
I don’t want to share a story that isn’t mine to tell, but I will share a few details essential to convey the message I am want to convey. Angela had been through a few traumatic experiences over the past couple years, some of which she shared the details, and some I only found out later. After that compounded stress, she had a mental breakdown, which was understandable considering the circumstances surrounding her and her life. She was always a bright light, and she felt some shame, which made her portray her persona as someone who didn’t need help. Had I looked, or stayed closer, I may have seen it coming and could have helped more.
The next weekend, when she saw me in the hospital, she lit up and was like her old self. Her speech and mannerisms adjusted like she was healed, even if it only lasted for a short time. She started gossiping about the other patients, just like her old self. I brought a mutual friend for support to the hospital, who also did the internship with us, and she was ecstatic to see him. We both had individual time with her. We felt better after seeing her, but we all knew she was at risk if she stayed out there on her own again, without a support system looking out for her. She decided to move home with her Mom for a while to recover after she was discharged from the hospital.
She never was the same after that. Sometimes when we break, the crack isn’t easy to mend. I kept in closer contact with her for years, but as it happens, we drifted apart again. I remember an incident over a birthday weekend that didn’t go well for me. The area I was in had no cell reception also. When I got back to a place where I had service, I noticed I missed a call from her. When I listened to it, I was the worst friend with the worst reaction because I was in the middle of my own moment of weakness from the weekend I just had, and to this day, I regret everything about what I did.
She had called to wish me a Happy Birthday and to tell me that she was pregnant and that it was her birthday gift to me. In that short message, I knew she was mentally uneven. What I didn’t realize was that she really was pregnant. I didn’t call her back, because I was dealing with my own problems at the time, and as a little time passed, I forgot she had called.
I remembered later I saw baby pictures posted on her Facebook page, and that’s when I realized my misstep. I was so ashamed that I acted the way I did and that I completely forgot about her. We connected a few times again after her son was born, but she had a new life that revolved around her child, rightfully so, so we lost contact again. She lived near her family, who were her support system, so I knew she was in good hands. I stopped calling so she could be the Mom she always wanted to be. After some time passed, I realized she stopped posting on Facebook, and I just thought she got busy with motherhood but never checked in.
One day, I got a phone call from her mother, who had found my phone number written on a paper in her drawer at home. She had been looking for my number for quite a while, and one day it appeared when she did some spring cleaning. Luckily, I haven’t changed my cell number since 1999, so she could still reach me. She called to tell me that Angela had passed away from natural causes months earlier. I couldn’t fault her for not finding me, I had not been the greatest of friends at the end, and she had enough to deal with in taking care of closing out Angela’s accounts and life, and then taking in Angela’s son to live with her and her husband. I’m still working through this experience, and I don’t think it will be one I will resolve anytime soon.
To this day, my experience with Angela is one reason why I call my friends when I have a bad feeling, or they pop up in my dreams, so I sent short texts or voice notes to say hi. It may be penance or just worry that history will repeat itself with others I care for. Over the years, I found out I have a strong connection with a few people. It starts by me getting a feeling. When that happens, I always end up calling or messaging them to then find out they just got bad news or something has happened to them. For others, because of how our relationships ended, I don’t reach out, not for not wanting to but to respect the decisions we made to end the way we did, but there are moments I feel compelled to reach out. In some cases, the feeling is too strong, and even though I don’t think it will be received well, I reach out.
It’s unrealistic to think I can keep in constant connection with everyone, but sometimes I put that burden on myself. I’m working on it. Just know that if you ever were a part of my life, I still think about you. I haven’t forgotten you, and I still care, even if we ended on bad terms. If you ever feel you want to reach out, do so, I’m probably wanting to do the same. It will always be welcomed, and most likely, I miss you.