Our Lives Are Like Vectors

people come and go

In an article a few months ago, I wrote how change is not only a part of life, but that life is defined by it.  Nowhere is this more obvious or true than in our relationships…

Pretty much most of my life I would not have cared about this.  In fact, I wouldn’t have thought about it at all.

It wouldn’t have mattered to me because it wouldn’t really have related to me.


Cause I didn’t have relationships.  Not ones I cared about, really.  Not ones that ever really had the chance of ending.  And especially not with the ladies.

I had a lot of friends I didn’t even really like.  A couple I actually did.  And I had my family.

And so I never had a lot to lose.

I could be the worst son ever, for instance, and my parents wouldn’t go anywhere.  They wouldn’t exactly disown me, and I couldn’t exactly send them off to some crooked old folks home, either.

And I could have been the worst brother ever too, and my siblings wouldn’t go anywhere either.  You know…ripping on them non-stop and sending them long lists of reasosn why they suck (which I should stop doing).

In fact, I probably was the worst at times (at least jokingly so, mostly), and…lookey here…they’re all still around.

Cause the types of relationships I had weren’t the type that would ever end.

So the idea, then, that my friends would come and go, or that girls I meet would come and go, or that I could lose all my best friends as each moved or moved on, was – in some weird way – more a dream than a threat.  More something I wished could happen than feared would happen.  Cause though maybe they might leave, at least that meant I had had them at all.

I know.  Fucking lame.

But becoming someone that actually has people in their life – and constantly new people at that – is something I worked really hard at, and devoted a lot of time to.  And as I meet people every day, every night, every week, I more and more realize something…

That people come and go.

And it’s taught me something important…

…that people are – in a lot of ways – like vectors in space…

people come and go

That our lives are like vectors – like lines moving in space, extending in space – each different, each unique; each with its own path, and place, and pace even.

people come and go

And that each meeting of two lives is like the crossing of their two lines, and all time spent with that person is like the joining of their two lives – whether for 30 seconds shared in an elevator, or 60 years shared in marriage.

people come and go

How amazing then, that any two lines come near at all; that when you walk downtown and look around at all the people on the street that day – that they’re there at all; that their lives brought them there, that their lines made it there.

The same time as you.  The same moment as you.  Against all that could have prevented it.

How freaking weird, and random, and incredible really.

How amazing it is that of all the billions of people and all the billions of paths – each different, each unique – and of all the infinite ways those paths do twist, and turn, and turn around – that your paths did find each other – in this time, and this place.

All in a world where the chance that any two lines start together is as remote as the likelihood that they end together; that the odds that any two paths actually share paths for any length of time – of all the lines and all the lives – is as unlikely as their meeting or crossing at all.

How amazing it is that (if you had some kind of sweet prophetic ability) you could tell a baby girl born today in your town for instance, that her first kiss will be from a boy born a few months ago, a few miles away; that their separate lives will lead them there.

Or that her best friend will be a girl born 5 months from now in New York of all places.

Or that her life will be forever changed by a group of children in China she’ll one day teach – still 20 years now from being born.

Or that one day – long after she’s returned from overseas – she’ll just so happen to catch eyes with a man at a happy hour after work – a man she’ll marry, a man she’ll start a family with, a man she’ll spend 50 years with.

All possible – despite how incredibly unlikely it would seem that day, on the day of her birth.

All the kinds of things that happen every day, all around the world.

And yet, on that day of her birth, how utterly freaking random and unlikely it would seem that she’d meet any of those people, right?  That her path would cross theirs at all – of all the people, and all the paths.

Yet…paths do cross.  Trillions of times.  Every day.  Even in the remote places of the earth.

But, that’s not exactly what amazes me most…

…or what inspired this post, really.

Cause of course people meet every day.  Of course paths cross.  We’re too many.  And the world’s too small.

But what’s been so amazing to me, and for a time was so frustrating, is just how unpredictable those meetings really are; how nearly impossibly they’re forced; how nearly impossibly they’re controlled; how little say you have at all – at who comes, and goes, and how, why, or how long they remain at all.

It’s the kinda thing life teaches you after a lot of disappointment, and frustration, and heartbreak even.

That your life – your line in space – is yours to travel, and yours to worry about alone.  And over the course of a lifetime it will be crossed by the paths and lines of thousands of others – some say between 50,000-100,000 others on average – and to the time, nature, and length of those crossings…

You’re helpless.  Mostly helpless.

people come and go

That nothing you can do can change those meetings.  Nothing you can do can prevent them.  And most importantly of all…that nothing you can do can force them – to make them longer, to make them how you’d want them, to determine them at all.

And that really is the best part of it, when you come to appreciate it.

That people come and go.

That you live your life by your concerns – that you just live your life at all – and people will come.  And, in time, they will go.  And over the course of your life, your path – your line – will be crossed by so many, and joined by so many, and departed by so many.

And you learn it the hard way.

That every person you meet, and every person you see, is in your life but for a time.  Sometimes for a moment of time, sometime for the rest of your time, but always for a time only.  Always in some way temporarily.  Always with an end.

And whether a person is your partner for many years, or simply a stranger you see in the street, your experience of them, and your interaction with them is but the intersection of two life paths that will once again diverge.

people come and go

And though you may enjoy that person, and they you, and though you may think you have a notion, or a feeling of what they feel, or how they are, or who they are, you can not control their exit from your life.

The paths will diverge.  At a point as unknown and unpredictable to you as the time and place of your meeting in the first place.

The lines will separate once more – like once they were separate.

Our lives are like lines in space.

And though today your lines may meet, and though today neither would have it any other way, you have no say in tomorrow, and nowhere near the control over it as your feelings would have you believe.

And that’s the lesson life teaches me every week, every night…

…when I’m out being social with friends: that your experience of a person, and their experience of you is unrelated to your pasts, and indeterminate of your future.

That you can share a look with a passerby, though you’ll never meet; a kiss with a stranger, though you’ll never meet up; the most awesome time with someone you’ve just met – as if you’ve known one another forever, as if there were really no one else in the world – and yet still never see them again.

As ridiculous as it would seem at that time, in that moment, when you’re both enjoying each other so much.

And you can share absolutely nothing in common with a person – no history, no culture, no language even – and yet be as if you were meant to be – for 5 minutes, for 5 hours, or even more.

And with another you can seemingly share everything in common, and yet – a friend comes, they’re pulled away, and they’re gone forever.

For whatever reason.

Because of whatever factors you could never know and will never know.

Cause their line is their line; their path their path.  And neither are yours.

Not yours to control.  Not yours to predict.  Not yours to change.

How your lines meet at all – and the paths you’ve taken and the experiences you’ve had – means nothing to that time, and to that moment.  And that you find your lines connected in that time, and in that moment, means nothing to the paths those lines will take tomorrow – when your moment together has come and gone.

And though to some it’s the most painful part of their relationships with others, the truth of it is: not every of the best people you meet, and not all of your most intimate connections are destined to be anything more than a single experience along your line of life.

That you connect does not mean they remain.  That you shared something special does not mean it’s meant for anything more.

And though that’s sad to some, it’s also one of the best things about life – that any seemingly insignificant person can become important, almost in an instant, just as any seemingly important person can make themselves insignificant, nearly just as quickly.

That when a dude’s out with friends and walks up to a girl, for instance, and introduces himself, they are starting a relationship of sorts – right then, right there.  They are crossing their two lines.

And for those few seconds right there when he looks at her, and she looks at him, all else in the world really does fall away – their histories, their pasts, their plans, their friends, all of it becomes unconscious and out of mind – and they become each other’s sole source of emotion, and all that exists to one another.

And whether it continues for mere minutes, or days, or weeks, or months, or that night only, it really is something to be appreciated – that their paths crossed that day, that their lines met that day, that they found each other at that moment, and that time; that they somehow – of all the people and all the odds – found each other at all – even if only to share a few laughs for a few moments.

And then – likely – they’re gone.  One to continue on their path, along their line.  And the other along theirs.

And though in a way it is kinda sad – to see good people go – it’s also pretty amazing as well – that life provides those opportunities, that the world affords those chance encounters.

And to a lot of people it would seem weird, confusing, tragic even, that the vast majority of the tens of thousands of people we meet in our lifetimes – so many really, really awesome people – come and go in mere minutes, days, or months.

But those moments – short though they may have been, and temporary though they may have turned out to be – were perfect at that time – maybe one of few perfect things we can ever experience – and they should be appreciated for what they were, rather than mourned for what they were not.

And so the randomness teaches you that if they’re there today, and they’re in front of you today – enjoy that time, that person, that moment.

There’s no guarantee you’ll meet there once more tomorrow.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the lines and lives of others.

There’s just no knowing.


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One Response to Our Lives Are Like Vectors

  1. Pam says:

    Love. This.

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