How people change your life (And how people have changed mine)

I know so many people. I know so many people. Sometimes I try to think of all the people I’ve ever met in my life, and it baffles me because it’s such an infinite amount. A new friend of mine recently said that with the advent of social media, that whole 6 degrees of separation has now been whittled down to 4 degrees. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, or if the 6 degrees thing was ever true to begin with. Anyway, that’s not even what I want to talk about.

What I want to talk about is people. And most importantly, their impact on all of our lives. I know, I know. Kind of vague. But from the moment we’re born (barring extreme circumstances), we are surrounded by other humans. Our mothers, for one, are there when we are born. If we are born in hospitals or houses, there might be doctors or midwives, family and friends. As a baby, on the whole, you are never left alone. Those around you shape the way you learn, grow, and eventually your entire outlook on life. We are a composite of endless minds and emotions, all trying to show us what is best, all trying their hardest to give us the tools we need to one day be self-sufficient humans. We are raised to inevitably be alone.

And so we grow and grow. We make our first memories as we begin to understand language. One of my very first memories is of being about 3 years old and running into a house we were considering renting. The place was enormous from my perspective, but I’m sure it wasn’t much to behold – a duplex in Hialeah, FL. I found my very first treasure there on the side of a bathroom sink. It was a small gold earring, slightly bent. I took it to my mother and asked her if it was possible to find a matching earring. She took the sad little piece of jewelry and put it away and said we would try to find its’ pair. My mom still has that earring locked away in a box somewhere. I don’t know if it means much that my mother still has that earring, or what she thought about it when I presented it to her so proudly, or if she’s even thought about it since. But that moment, in some way, changed my life. Because if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have this story to tell. Life is funny that way.

My 7th birthday, neither Natalie is present, but all these people changed my life somehow.

Then, time passes and we get older. I got older. We make our first friends. We have our first misunderstandings. Like when I was 6 and my best friend was the 4 year old next door named Natalie and we were best friends until the other Natalie moved to our block in Midway Point. Natalie #2 was older, and therefore in my mind, wiser and cooler. I don’t know why I assumed that. Maybe it was the cartoons I watched. Older kids were always way cooler. After all, they’d been around longer so they’d had more time to learn just what was cool. And Natalie #2 told me that it wasn’t cool to hang out with babies like Natalie #1. And how much it hurt to tell my first best friend that I didn’t want to play with her anymore. How that changed me life – knowing that I, too, could be cruel. How I know that had to have changed Natalie #1’s life. Over time, we actually all became friends, but that moment sticks out in my mind so strongly. Sometimes I wonder if she remembers that at all. After I moved away the next year, I never saw her again. I never even knew her last name.

“My, people come and go so quickly here.” It’s one of those quotes that always sticks in my head, mostly because it’s true. I left the Natalie versus Natalie situation behind me when I moved, and then came 2nd grade. We’d just been through a major hurricane that wound up not scaring me one bit (I suppose I was much too young), and now came the more terrifying aspect of being the new kid at school. At the time, it all seemed so important and so endless. When you’re young, your world is so small, and because we’ve only been on the planet for a short while, our sense of time is skewed.

Or maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe we just say that as we get older because that’s what we’ve been taught to say, and maybe certain feelings are never-ending. Like your first love, or at least the first person you really feel something for. I had a crush on a boy named Danny in the first grade, but I wouldn’t say that was the first one I cared for a great deal. My first long term “like” was Jonathan, and i’ll use his real name now because it’s been so long, it doesn’t matter any more. But maybe he does matter, because I’m writing about him again. Whether he knew it then, whether he’ll ever know it, he changed my life.

I met him in the 5th grade and my love for this boy ran deep for about 5 years. That’s a long, long time for a kid (at the time when I finally gave up on him, I had been fawning for him for ONE THIRD OF MY LIFE). That’s a long, long time for anyone, really. I don’t know why he affected me so deeply. He just did. How is it, why is it that some people impact you in such a strong way while others barely make a splash? Are we the ones that decide from the get go? A subconscious decision that states: yes, you there. I will let you make my life wonderful. I will let you destroy me. How does this happen? Why do we continue to let it do so?

People change our lives simply because we care. If we, as a species, did not care about anything at all, we would have self-destructed ages ago. I’m not sure if we learn to love as children, or if it’s inherent, or what, and I don’t imagine anyone will ever understand the complexities of human emotion wholly and fully. But that’s just the state of things, and over time, the only thing that has changed is how these situations are handled.

And this is where it gets tricky. Right now, a lot of people I know are in a state of transition. Maybe it’s the start of the year, or something to do with the way the planets are aligned. Who knows. All that’s certain is that many of us are being affected by others, because that’s what always happens. That is what is always happening. It never ends. All we can do is sit back and wonder why these people come in to our lives (why we let them?), what it means (if anything), and where we go once they’ve affected us. And my god have we been affected. Sometimes it’s a minimal influence, sometimes completely life altering, but always important.

I’m currently writing this while hanging out in the apartment of someone that has affected me (and will likely continue to affect me) a great deal. All the while I’ve been hiding out here, I’ve been wondering about others that have recently changed my life. This kind of thinking is cyclical and does not lead to much productivity.

That is, unless you turn it in to a project.

So I’m going to attempt to take at least 1 person that’s affected me (maybe weekly, maybe biweekly), that’s changed my life in some way, and write about how they actually went about doing that. It might be interesting to see all the people my memories bring out. I’ve met so many and with every passing day, I know i’ll continue to meet more. The people that changed my life so long ago, most of them i’ve lost touch with for good. As for the people changing my life right now, inspiring me to write long posts like this (among other things)? I don’t know what will happen with them. Maybe they’ll be lost as well. Or maybe something else will happen, as things tend to do, and i’ll find them again, and maybe i’ll actually get to change their lives just a little bit. Because really, isn’t that usually the thing we want to hear anyway? That we affected people the way they affected us? Every musician likes to hear the roar of a crowd, every chef loves a good compliment and a plate licked clean, and us writers? Well, we’d settle for a simple message that gives us some indication that you might’ve understood what we were trying to say.

For now, thank you (all) for changing my life. This is the best I can do for now, the most that I can possibly say without saying anything at all.

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