I had a friend. “Oh my god! Why the past tense?” Surprisingly, in this case, she was not doorslammed out of my life like some people have been. She is a former exchange student at the university I attend and is returning to her home back in mainland China. This means she will be truly gone, leaving me her e-mail and some sort of an instant messaging app that I never used and, frankly, I most likely won’t get into the habit of using it.
As the major communication channel natural to normal people, i.e. face-to-face chit-chat closes, there will not be much of her left. I mean, she wasn’t exactly my BFF for the last semester. We only hung out in Microeconomics lectures and I once came over to her place for an awesome, truly Chinese, dinner. But I did enjoy the time spent with her and in the wake of our relationship, I have even had a little crush on her. Admittedly, the fact that we didn’t spend much time together was more attributed to my insane introversion, rather than lack of mutual benefits from trade of words and looks.
I now know that the place next to me on my Macro lectures will likely remain empty. I will miss her there. And I will think about how I once had a friend who had some, even seemingly meaningless, importance to me and how there is nothing left from her.
I am not exactly good at making friends. Not because I would not be nice person but because I am a brutal introvert. I have trouble approaching people, I never know what to talk to them about, I obviously suck at small talk and can’t bear it for longer than 3 minutes, I don’t see the reason why given person would want to talk to me and most of all, I am not exactly easy to understand.
For this reason, I value the people who are able to compensate all of these issues quite highly. And I always try to show it to them once I am there. When some of them leave my closest circle, it is either for a stupid and obvious reason like in this case, or as a result of being pushed away in punishment of abusing me in one way or another.
Both these types of people remain in my memory, I mostly remember the good of them and try to smile over the little things life has given us. I miss them, but as mentioned in John Greens book “Looking for Alaska”, (which I have just finished) the memory of people who have gone falls apart, day by day and then we just forget.
For me, being a highly sentimental being, this is quite hard thing to do. Intentionally or not, I keep things. Little, seemingly uninteresting pieces of junk that have no value other than purely sentimental. Each one of them is linked to a person who meant something in my life, good or bad. There are letters from my first love, a tiny plastic figure of a bear from a high-school friend who was just not worth it, shoelaces, which I got in a town of the only friend I have ever made in my first and only year of my first university and more.
I used to scatter these mementos everywhere around my table and made myself look at them. Look at them and remember that someone behind each item. I was basically never alone. The downside of this is that I was basically surrounded by ghosts. Memories. Memories my gifted brain didn’t want to let go of, preventing them from the natural — falling apart.
Maybe for this reason I struggle to make new friends. Loving the memory of my first girlfriend whom I have instructed to “stop existing” had prevented me from building healthy relationships. On the other hand, looking at the evidence of me participating on organizing grand events and doing great job at things ever since dropping out of the most prestigious boarding school in my country drives me forward to do even more amazing things. Or it might just as well be the experience.
I have no idea why people surround themselves with these things. It might be just me, it might be you, it might be everyone. But in my case, building relationships to things and memories, which can’t hurt you any further, rather than actual people, has proven to be way to go for a while.
What I know for sure is that I have put all these things in a cardboard box on top of my wardrobe in order to spare my table the burden. In spite of it, I keep collecting as well as giving them out. I carry some of them to the UK and the table slowly fills up again. I wonder if I become a proper hoarder one day. With a house full of things I have an affection to.
Presents come and presents go. Kid gets a toy, plays with it for a while and then breaks it, binning it eventually. I get a can of cured ham and keep it on a shelf in order to keep a memory of my grandfather in case things go wrong. I love the things around me. Not for their actual value but for the sentiment. For what they represent. With me, Gucci just doesn’t make it. Sure the bear-shaped blue soap my grandma had given me years ago does. And in spite of the strong smell it produces within the box, I am not gonna use it, because the bear would be in pain.
And my Chinese friend, you ask? She does the same. I have given her a chocolate medal I won for the first place in a conference team competition back in Bournemouth. I did it to show her how much I actually cared about her, tearing a memento away from my heart, creating a memento to the power of two and sending it on to another continent, knowing it will never come back. From another perspective, I had gotten rid of a piece of junk I wouldn’t’ve gotten rid of otherwise.
Is giving presents from someone to someone else wrong? Yah. It is disrespectful towards the person who had given you the present. But fair enough if you don’t give a shit about them and it makes someone else happy.
I am not like that. My inner child cries every time I break a thing. And that’s the thing about things. They are altruistic. Much better than people in this respect. They mostly cannot hurt you but you will likely destroy, or worse, abandon them one day. At least, by creating a memento, you give a thing the power of expressing feelings.
Now I feel lonely and need a hug. But I have nobody who would give me one within the proximity of 1000 kilometers. I am gonna hug my plushy crocodile. A memento from my early high-school (B)F(F).