When I was in first grade, I had a friend from France.
Her name was Sidonie. I don’t remember her last name, and I’m not sure if I ever knew it. When you’re a kid, you don’t care about people’s last names unless they’re A) an adult or B) another kid with the same first name as you, and even then, you only care about the first letter.
But anyway, Sidonie and her little sister, Agate, went to my school. I remember one time all of us girls were at recess, playing in the sand underneath a thatched hut, when she told us that she could speak European. And we were confused. No, you speak French! But she insisted. We pushed back. French is different from European! We knew that even then.
I don’t remember where the conversation went after that. But what I do remember is that she returned to France shortly after, and I never saw her again. You know, I think about her sometimes. Why? I have no idea. We weren’t even particularly good friends. Hell, I don’t even remember what she looks like, it’s been so long.
But lately, I’ve been finding myself thinking about people that I used to know.
My old swim captain who married her high school sweetheart. A girl I played basketball with in third grade — talented, but rude — who took her own life. A boy I hit on the head with a bike helmet; I heard that his mother passed away.
It’s probably a sign of the times. I’m a senior now. I’m 21, at that weird age where I look like I have everything figured out — in theory, I do — but in practice I have no idea what I’m doing. In one year, my life will be unrecognizable. No classes, no tests, no grades. No rushing to use the bathroom before my roommate’s morning shower. No 2 a.m. study sessions with my best friends — hopefully, we’ll all be going to bed at reasonable times! But, more importantly, we’ll be scattered across the world like grains of sand on the wind.
Will we still be best friends a year from now? What about five, or ten? Or will we slowly drift apart until one day, they’re just people I used to know?
My mom’s friend’s daughter with whom I rode roller coasters in China. The concertmaster who left his violin in his room, missed the elevator, and ran up 10 flights of stairs to grab it in the nick of time.
I don’t know, and that terrifies me.
People change. Relationships change. Change is good! I know that. I’m a better person than I was four years ago — God, I was so cringy when I was a teenager. I should embrace change, but somehow, I’m still scared. It’s difficult. It hurts. Sometimes, I feel like I’m the one standing still while the people around me are fading out of my life. I can try to hold on, to pull them back into my orbit, but they’re fighting against me. The clock is ticking. Eventually, we both know, I’ll stop trying, and they’ll slip away.
I can’t help but wonder how they’ll think of me. Who was I to them? Who were they to me? How will we live on in each other’s memories? I try to imagine my best friends as single sentences, but I can’t do it. They’re complex. They’re nuanced — three dimensional, as a novice writer would say. But so many people have become sentences to me. If we grow apart, why should they be any different?
A quirky young oboist I met at music camp who’s now viral on TikTok. The student teacher for my high school orchestra who played trombone and always wore puffy jackets; he showed up to watch my performance when my classmates had all gone home. A boy I liked for two weeks of two summers whose violin was the same as mine.
No matter what happens with those I hold dearest to my heart, I know that there are a lot of people — friends, even — who I might not ever speak to again. I think that’s just a part of growing up. And I think that I’ve accepted it — unintentionally or not, you leave people in your past. Maybe you see them again, maybe you don’t. People always have a habit of coming in and out of your life in the most unexpected ways. Those doors, it seems, are never really locked forever — maybe they just get harder to open.
But honestly! I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a year before everything changes, yes, but that’s still a whole year. I have time — time to make memories, time to bolster friendships. If the people in my life become one-liners in 10 years, then damn it, I’ll make sure that they’re good ones.
So, as my final year begins, here’s to everyone that I know. Here’s to those I knew in the past, and here’s to the memories that they leave behind. Here’s to being a student, to sleep schedules that don’t quite overlap, to late nights and later mornings, to never vacuuming as often as we should. Here’s to change, however painful, and to whatever it brings. And finally, here’s to the lives we lead, and here’s to the stories we become.