To be worthy of what we lose

A friend texted me last week from Europe. As we spoke about work and careers, she told me how living in another country was helping her rethink a lot of things.

Almost like meeting a new version of herself, she said.

I have found that travel does that to me, which is why I always find ways to wander. At the same time, it is my identity, my sense of history and home, that keeps me grounded in a world that seems to be trying very hard to implode.

So I go away, in a sense. But I find that I can’t go far.

I don’t know why. It’s hard to define that feeling, like that pang in your chest when you look out the windows of a train at night, wind rushing through hair and face, and wonder whose home that tiny pinprick of light is.

That thing I can’t name, that unknowable sense of longing, is a constant companion. I’ve made peace with it, sort-of.

My friend told me that every time she and I sat down to talk, she would always think this guy must have done a lot of introspection, a ‘crazy amount’. And how I always spoke with such clarity.

It’s always weird when friends tell you these things, because you don’t have that perspective. You are stumbling along on your own way, fumbling, falling, getting up, and trying again. You don’t look at yourself like that.

But, as I told her, it wasn’t natural to me. I sort-of fell into things, and let life take me along.

The thinking happened because of necessity. I lost too much once. And I told myself never again.

As the hurt and pain congealed, cleaned itself up, and became a scar not immediately visible, I acted on it. I subjected every little conversation, every little decision, really every move, to silly levels of scrutiny . I thought a lot about why I chose to do this over that, and what would really make me happy. It became second nature, and now I do it unconsciously: I’m acutely aware of what I say and do and feel.

Does that mean I have not made mistakes? No, of course not, I still fuck up all the time. I’m very human, as fallible as everyone else. Probably even more so.

It’s a journey, as most things are.

A couple of days ago, Pico Iyer tweeted something Emily Dickinson wrote: To be worthy of what we lose is the supreme aim.


Written in July 2020.