Xeno Hemlock


Accepting the Revolving Door of People in Our Lives

To show or not to show? My friend had just told me his new plan. Within one year, he'd be following his girlfriend who left the country two days ago to join her in working overseas. He asked what I thought of that to which I replied, "Go for it." Our conversation resembled the Starbucks drink in front of me. Bitter and sweet. For an introverted gifted adult like me, finding someone I jive with on a mental level can be rare. Losing a friend like that can really be very sad for us. At the same time, we're talking about one of my favourite topics - dreams. Strong desire filled my friend's face, that kind I knew I wore many times in the past two years. I turned to my MacBook Pro next to my drink and browsed for a file. When I found it, the life and death question returned. To show or not to show?

One memory I couldn't get out of my head occurred when I was very young and the only child of my parents. Waking up in bed in that one bedroom of my first childhood home, I only saw my mother. I hid under the blanket and yelled to my father, who I knew was outside the bedroom, to look for me believing I was hard to find. Seconds later, he pulled away the blanket and attacked with a surprise tickle. That short game ended into a mental picture of a small family in bed enclosed in a hug with a child's laughter echoing through the tunnels of time. 

Shortly after, my father had to work overseas, typical of most middle-class Filipino families. I didn't initially understand it, too young to do so. His presence in my life transformed into boxes of Snickers bars from abroad and his huge face in a framed painting of us three on the wall which he painted himself. And for the majority of my lifetime, he had always lived abroad, away from the family, for dough on the table, to send us to school, to pay the bills, and other monetary reasons, only going home every two years or more depending on his current employment. Every time he walks through our door straight from the airport, I see a stranger. He's my father but I don't know him. I'm his son but he doesn't know me. And the cycle continues. He leaves to be back again after an irregular number of years. He enters our house's door. Again, I see a stranger. Thus, it has been a fixture of my life since childhood until now, what should've been a key figure growing up often absent. It's like getting cut with a knife and waiting for the wound to heal only for the knife to cut and wound you again. To deal with it, you choose to be numb.

Reading Haruki Murakami's book Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, these two sentences grabbed, slapped, and yanked my gut:

People are in constant motion, never stationary. No one knows what will happen next.
— Haruki Murakami

It's simple yet profound. But for some of us, this can be a truth that's not easy to understand. How many of us fail to learn to stand on our own two feet because we can't let go of the truth that nobody can do the walking for us? How many relationships go to an untimely bitter end because either party wants to keep the other tied to a chain? How many of us get stuck in a cruel passage of time where everything around us has moved on except for us? @@There's a revolving door of people in our lives, one that must constantly go on moving.@@ If we stop it, nobody can get out but nobody can get in as well. If we just let it be, yes people can get out but others can go in too. Whatever we choose, the outcome will be the same.

There are a few reasons why learning to accept that revolving door can be tough to digest. 

Sometimes people change in a drastic way shattering the image you have of them, like that former friend of mine, the first person I shared my dream with, who turned out to be someone I never really knew after all. 

Sometimes people choose to remain where they are when we already want to move on, like some friends of mine I slowly lose touch with as the stream of life moves me to a different direction. 

Sometimes people put us on a pedestal before knocking us down to fall on the hard, and cold concrete ground, like that heartbreaker who I thought was the one that got away but someday will receive a "Thank You" note from me.

Sometimes people's roles in our lives are only meant to be seasonal, them only passing for a while to perhaps fill a need or teach us something, but we hope them to be a permanent fixture, like some new faces I don't see anymore.

Or sometimes people's time on Earth runs out, the Grim Reaper pays them a visit and gives them their ticket to present to Charon on the way to their new world, and we have ultimately no say about it.

If we spend some time watching that door revolve ushering faces in and out of our lives, we can pick up one very important thing - we go through our lives alone, in a sense that there'll be people who'll be part of our lives at one point or another but they'll never be there for us the entire way. Is this a reason to be sad and aloof? Or is this a reason to be welcoming and happy? 

I double-clicked the file I was looking for.

"This is the cover of my upcoming book," I told my friend. 

He looked at the image on the screen.

"An illustrator I met online created this," I continued.

One year after that day I'm not sure if we'll still go in a coffee shop to discuss our lives and our dreams. But I made my choice - life. I'll let the door keep on revolving. It will never be stationary. No one knows what will happen next.