It can’t be October tomorrow. It still feels like this whole…whatever this is supposed to be…just started in some ways. Instead, I’ll be in Honduras for 5 months next week, which means that I’m almost halfway done. My wife is officially in her second trimester. I’ll be done with my undergrad program in 12 weeks. Nothing in my life is remotely the same from this past May, yet it feels like “this past May” was last week.
It was weird saying bye to my closest friends from California. There was an awkward vibe that surrounded our good times, a kind of “this is probably never happening with us again” cloud that never quite lifted. Although I’ve moved around a great deal, I’ve never had that feeling before, and I genuinely enjoyed it, as uncomfortable as it was. I left to South Carolina from Queens at age 11 without being able to tell anyone. I left to New Jersey from South Carolina at 16 without telling anybody outside of my very best friend at the time. I didn’t even get the chance to do that much with my new college friends on my way back to South Carolina from Jersey; I was on the first Greyhound smoking after my cousin found out about my grades. That was the routine for me. I was somewhere, and then I just…wasn’t there anymore.
Looking back from the point of view of the people who cared about me back then, that shit is weird. And hurtful. Having someone you talked to daily just disappear without a trace one day, especially when Facebook wasn’t widespread and Twitter didn’t even exist, just has to feel so abrupt. Like someone rage quit your relationship. I really regret doing that, even if a couple of those instances weren’t under my control.
Last May was the first time I’ve really said goodbye to anyone close. The first time that I’ve given (or had a chance to give) any widespread notice to my departure. The first time I’ve had any finality. A going away party. Closure. All that good stuff. It was also the first time the majority of my friends and family was able to say, “Oh yeah, Shawn’s moving to _______ during ________. We should see him before he leaves.” That was really important to me. It was cool knowing that someone actually cared about me leaving.
Until I got married, I never got the feeling that people’s lives would change after I left them. I’m sure people missed me in a “that Shawn guy was cool. It’s a shame he left,” sort of way, but I never felt indispensable to someone. That’s one of the benefits of having a set of parents and/or siblings that people take for granted. You know someone genuinely cares about your whereabouts. You know that you truly matter to someone. Since my family wholly consists of cousins and aunts and uncles without actual parents or siblings, I’ve always had the sense that I could only hope to be second fiddle in anyone’s heart of hearts. I could only hope to be “like a brother” to someone or “like a son” to someone else. No matter how much someone loved me, there was always at least one human being that they loved more than me. I couldn’t pass the ultimate cliff test (if two people were hanging off a cliff and you could only save one, who would it be?) with anyone because there would always be someone more important to them. This, of course, is selfish. And terribly unfair to my aunt and uncle and cousins (their two sons) who voluntarily took care of me and loved me as much as they possibly could. But I don’t think it’s false.
I think that’s part of the reason I’m irrationally excited about having a child instead of having the nerves that normally come with it. I don’t want my child to ever have that feeling. That’s not one of the common adversities that people overcome to build character. It’s debilitating, mentally and emotionally. It makes you think that ending it all wouldn’t bother the rest of the world all that much. In short, it sucks. Fortunately, I don’t feel it much anymore. Thanks, Rachel.
I just have this feeling that time will go exponentially faster as the birth draws closer and I’m going to blink and it’ll be Halloween and I’ll know whether we’re having a son or daughter and oh my God can I just please hit the pause button to process what exactly is going on sometimes? Everything is scary. But at least I’ll get to say goodbye to the past this time.
(No, my wife hasn’t ripped my head off via Skype yet. But it’s coming. I can feel it.)