I learned at sleep-away bible camp in the 5th grade that God had messed up in making me.
One) It is beyond me why a bunch of camp counselors would make a bunk full of homesick, Bible-toting adolescents draw pictures of what they missed the most. Two) While others around me struggled to capture the soft features of their mothers and the shades and shadows of their fathers, I learned I was a real artist. But it was only because my bunk mates were drawing their families and I had drawn a bed. Drawing a bed is pretty hard to mess up.
As the pictures were hung up, one by one around the cabin, it was then that I saw how screwed up of a human being I really was. Susie’s family, Rachel’s dog. Alyssa’s teacher. Hannah’s bed. I contemplated taking a canoe out to the middle of the lake (even though I failed my swim test) and just waiting. Eventually some author would come along and write a book about me, place me in the character realm right next to the Grinch who stole Christmas and Ebenezer Scrooge. Two other individuals who didn’t know how to handle other people either.
Contrary to popular “Hannah Katy” rhetoric, I have a very hard time letting feelings show. I have never been a hugger, I am not used to being touched and (I will just admit it right now) I don’t like animals in the least bit. Believe me I tried to adore the furry friends on the front of folders in elementary school, it just was not happening. Phrases like “I love you” and “I miss you” often lose their way to detours put up by my own insecurities.
I sometimes wonder, if we were to read the description and qualifications of being a human off of Craig’s List, would we apply for the job? We would never be guaranteed to know if the position was short term or long term. We might find it appealing to experiment with abstract concepts of Love and Happiness and Loss, we might wonder why a position as extensive as this is unpaid. We would more than likely question why no manual exists to help us out when things fall apart. We might wonder why, when we grow older in the position, we will move miles and miles away from ones that we love. And we will label it life. And Living. And Becoming Masters of the Art of Missing Others.
I genuinely used to believe that I could skip this whole “missing” business, if I did not get too attached to anyone then I would never have to miss them. I could go on missing my bed, not my family.
We could get rid of missing each other altogether, why not do that? The whole thing is pointless. It’s hard. It’s not fun. It’s quite heartbreaking. But it might be better to miss someone deeply then to miss out on ever knowing them, in fear that “Goodbye” might one day emerge from their lips.
Te Extrano, as the barbers across the street might say. I miss you. I miss you when the subway pulls up but you are not waiting alongside me to take the ride into Manhattan. I miss when the world falls asleep at night but I am used to your laughter as my bedtime story. I miss you when the coffee pot drizzles in the morning, when my “real laugh” comes out. I miss when you when I see a big white van and I think to myself: We should all be riding together in there again, singing songs about changing the world. I miss you when a little child asks to hold my hand; I gladly outstretch five fingers but I know your five fingers don’t stretch back.
I miss you as the leaves start changing their wardrobe, blushing a luscious shade of red before falling to the ground. I miss you as the world begins gathering closer, stores begin hanging wreaths before Halloween candy even leaves the shelves, and the holiday season tip toes towards us.
I miss you. And some days I want to take up topography so that I can rewrite the maps. Put Timid Towns of Massachusetts Next to Burly Boroughs of New York City. Draw the Confident Coast of Cali Next to the Vibrant Villages of South Africa and Peru. Take the Chicago Skyline and Sew It Right Above All Our Heads.
It does not work that way, in the same way that we cannot keep every person we love by our sides forever. My best friend gave me a card on the day I left for New York, it reads quite perfectly: “In the end, I think that I will like that we are sitting on the bed, talking & wondering where the time had gone.”
You are There and I am Here and, as hard as it is, I will resist chopping off the T from There to place you Here. I am becoming fine with missing you, I even believe I am lucky to have you to miss. So maybe I don’t inherit your smile or words on a daily basis but I trust that someone else does, someone who might need it more than me right now.
I trust the world enough to know that we are separate for a reason. We go to our own corners of the world to spread Love & Influence. Compassion & Radiance. You take Chicago and I will take New York. We’ll all meet up somewhere in the middle, missing each other wildly, but with a collection of stories that we could have never found if we had chosen to never part.
From Worcester to South Africa, Chicago to Peru, San Diego to Lawrence and back to North Haven: Be safe. Be strong. Keep painting the world, dipping all your brushes into the same big bucket called “A Better Place.”