What is the point of a Friendship if it fades?

I’ve been asking far too few questions lately.

Usually when I share something with you here, I want to give you something to be excited about, someplace you can dream to see someday.

But today, as I was triaging through old files, I came across a folder on my Mac called “Friend Docs,” resulting in a cascading series of events that led me straight down Memory Lane.

You see, ever since I got a new iPod, I’ve been shooting ABSURD amounts of HD video, and it’s filling up my drive faster that I anticipated. Turns out, a surprisingly large chunk of my space was also going to files that people have sent me over the past decade or so. Within the “Friend Docs” folder were photos of people I haven’t talked to in years. A Japanese musician, a German photographer, a graphic designer from New England. I suddenly wondered why I hadn’t spoken to them in so long and what their lives had become.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know I’m not expected to stay in touch with all of them. Sometimes connections just fade naturally. Travel has taught me this. Life has taught me this. And I get it. I accept it. Usually, I even welcome it, because when we let go of a connection that doesn’t resonate with us, we make space for something even better to come through.

I am living proof of this.

But as I shuffled through old videos and photos (even pictures of post cards), I couldn’t help but get a bit melancholic. Once upon a time, these files had meant so much to me. And now I didn’t care at all about most of them. Only a few, the few that sparked a memory, held any remaining value for me.

And I couldn’t help but ask myself: What was the point of these friendships? We don’t stay in touch any more, so were they a waste of time? Was I pursuing a weak friendship connection in the first place with some of these people? Perhaps. Perhaps.

Heck, I used to have a pretty good Japanese vocabulary! (Reminded of this by a screenshot of me Skyping with an old Japanese friend.) When I try and read hiragana now, I almost feel embarrassed at how much I’ve forgotten. What was the point? What was the point of any of this if my memory for language is like a sieve?

Stepping into a flooded fieldI let this thought stew for a while, and this afternoon I decided to go for a walk.

Outside, I discovered that a nearby stream had flooded, no doubt from all of the recent snowmelt. I’d been here dozens of times, maybe hundreds, and I’d never seen it like this — like a perfect mirror had been placed slightly above the landscape, and I stepped into the water with my waterproof shoes (just because I could).

Then I realized something.

In this changed environment, the stronger elements, often the older elements, reached out of the water easily. They would be fine.

I reflected: perhaps the passage of time is like a slowly rising flood. The memories are still there, submerged, but they aren’t always available for me to consciously access. And each of those memories has roots that go deep, even if I can’t see them. They reinforce other memories. (It’s all one big neurological network, right?)

A tree rising over a flooded field

It’s funny, because I’ve had this attitude toward relationships for a while now, that if something ends, that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. As long as I learned something, as long as I grew, it’s not a loss. But I guess I wasn’t applying this same belief to friendships. Or at least, not all of them.

But it remains true.

As I stood out and reflected upon my own reflection in the water, I realized: even if I learned another language fluently from a friend and then forgot it because the friendship faded, there would be growth in that, even if I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I’d learned about life. Even if I completely forgot the language afterward, it would still be worth it.

And then I expanded upon it. I realized that everyone I’ve ever met, no matter how briefly I’ve known them, has added to my learning in some way. Either they’ve provided more data for me to realize something new about humanity has a whole, or just provided a minor perspective shift, the learning is there, no matter how small.

In the end, not everything has to be remembered. And not everything has to be practical. It just has to be experienced honestly.

That’s something I expect I’ll have to keep telling myself.

What about you? From traveller to traveller:
How do you react when you reflect on friendships long faded?

Are You in Love With Where You Are? How to Keep the Travel Magic.

There comes a time when you know if the magic has gone out of a place.

Or when the magic of a new place calls out to you.

The thrill of fearlessly delving into the exploration of a new place produces a kind of “high” in my mind that many of you can probably easily relate to. It’s a kind of thrill that can’t be achieved any other way. The act of truly studying an area that draws you in, exploring it’s hidden places, with caution at first and then confidence, like a lover beholding his love for the first time, revealing avenues of beauty that were heretofore never imagined.

It’s entirely possible to fall in love with a city, or even a building. (If you haven’t yet, it’s likely that the reason is due to the fact that you simply haven’t been to enough places yet.) And as I look back at the last few years, I must admit I was enamored with the city of Madison for a while, perhaps even idealizing it at times, but now that magic has gone away.

Perhaps I know that city too well. Or perhaps I’ve moved on, but I have reached a peace with it, and for that I am grateful.

Do we ever really know why we fall out of love? I mean really know. I’m not so sure.

Perhaps it was merely infatuation with the city, for we know that infatuation can never last. With humans, this “puppy love” phase either proceeds onward to a more thoughtful kind of love, or it falls apart into something that we don’t call romantic love. I can’t help but think that my relationship with cities, however absurd it may sound to you, isn’t so different sometimes.

You see, I have these memories, so many memories, of uncovering small mysteries, things that felt like messages hidden within the city. Memories of visiting the top of the Capitol Building with a good friend and seeing the entire square spread out before us, or the time I discovered a small, hidden pier along the shore of Lake Mendota. Quiet moments snapping together like magnets.

Once when I was cycling south from Tenney Park, I came across a small, laminated note hidden inside a bush telling me that, yes, I was welcome to the berries along the trail but not to make new trails as that would crush the daylilies nearby.

For some inexplicable reason, the feeling of that day flashes back to me now and then. I have innumerable memories of exploring that city, but my unconscious mind seems to mark that memory with a strange level of significance.

A Pretty Lovely Lady

Yet all of these are merely memories, tools I may use for my own journey of expansion and self-knowledge, just as your memories are to you.

Have you ever felt that a place was calling out to you from a great distance?

I have, and do. Yes, it’s true, I have yet to post-process and release 100+ photos of my life-changing East Coast Adventure, and you will see those. Rest assured, they are all in the queue. But these Wisconsin days have gotten to me, and I feel the call to move on. All will come in time… in time.

If you’ve been reading this site diligently, you already know where my eyes are set, don’t you? It rhymes with “Good bye! Eeee!”

RIGHT. I’m going to Hawaii in just a couple months.

I’m not going to say I’ve fallen in love, or that this will be easy. Good friends of mine are here, but I no longer see a long-term future for myself in Wisconsin. Sure, I haven’t even met Hawaii yet, but she definitely seems like a lovely lady, even from a distance. And she calls to me. Even more importantly, my intuition is giving me a green light on going there. (Although it stubbornly refuses to give me any indication as to how long, so I’m going to play it by ear. I’ve committed to 2 weeks, but we both know it’s going to be for longer than that.)

Here’s the thing: it’s not just that there aren’t any guarantees anymore. In truth, there never were. “Security” is always an illusion. We can create a measure of it in our minds, but it never exists anywhere else. It is purely a mental construction, a war waged with ideas.

Perhaps the reason we don’t know why we fall out of love is because we don’t really understand how we fall in love in the first place. So how do you keep the magic? Simple. You follow your intuition, run it through your heart, and then run it by your mind. When all are in agreement, you know you’ve got something.

Consider where you live now. Your space, your location, is the result of the sum total of many decisions you’ve made. It can be changed if you desire. Empty out every thought and breathe the air you’re in.

Are you in love?