The People You Can’t Pick
It was a little over half-a-year or so now that I found myself sitting on the sofa of a stranger. My sketchbook lay in my lap, fingers curled tightly around the sides—a source of comfort. It was the first time I’d ever been to a therapist. She sits across from me, legs together and to the side, a slight, warm smile across the face, a blank notepad resting upon a small wooden table to her left.
We had already gone through the customary introduction:
“Hi my name is…”
“I’m 18 years old,” etc.
Was it my turn to talk? Am I supposed to lead the conversation?
More silence. I give in.
“I’m really scared to graduate,” I begin. She nods; I continue, “I get attached to people, way too easily, people I’m not even that close with,” I pause; pictures flash behind my eyes—friends, acquaintances, teachers, classmates.
It was a strange thought, a very strange thought, to just depart one day. People I’ve talked with, laughed with, grown up with. To suddenly leave them behind was an action I knew not how to feel about, despite being given all year to prepare myself.
“I’m scared to say goodbye.”
But there’s a look of reassurance in her eyes as the words fall from my mouth, as if she knows exactly what to say—and she does.
“There was a poem I read, once,” she starts, slightly shifting her posture to a more comfortable, casual position. “I can’t remember exactly how it goes, but it said that life is like walking through this field of wildflowers, and the people we meet—these wildflowers—come in all kinds of shapes and colors and sizes. Each one a little different than the last, all with something unique to offer us,” I listen intently. A thick accent makes her words bleed together in a beautiful way. Like music.
“But at the end of your journey, you only have a small bouquet.” Her hands are clasped together now, as if bundle of roses float between them. “And in it, are the people who truly matter most: family, close friends, lovers—the ones you take with you,” She gives me a moment to soak it in, and I do.
Wildflowers. I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I guess analogies have always been the way I’ve come to understand things. They make the world comprehensible. An abstract concept, a tumultuous life lesson, translated into terms that can be grasped. And strangely enough, it seems that it’s often not deep, philosophical words of wisdom that these metaphors are most called for, but rather simple lessons, plain pieces of common sense that we should already know—that we do already know—but struggle to accept. And why should we accept it when admission means pain, the very thing by human nature we’re programmed to avoid? How could that make sense?
But something about this newfound perspective gives me the ability to let go. To feel. Release. My fingers unwind from around the binding of my book, my shoulders slouch a bit more forward, a sigh quietly escapes past my lips.
Wildflowers. Wildflowers—I think I get it now.
Some sorrow in life is just unavoidable; you can’t get around it. But sometimes the pain of the truth is what sets you free, in the same way that the night must fall before the sun, too, can rise again. I’ve come to realize that for most my life I’ve spent too much energy trying to escape heartache—dreading it—living under the delusion that maybe if I could just sprint fast enough, just climb a little bit higher, it would miss me.
But it just doesn’t work like that—you can’t outrun the dark. More importantly, however, you shouldn’t, even if you got the chance to. Allow yourself to think, and to feel, and to soak in your sadness. Embrace it, and let it leave you; it’s all a part of the human experience. To say goodbye is no easy task; but time and time and again it will be the one in front of us. And ultimately, there’s no other way to face it than head-on, because if you’re not facing it head-on, then you’re really not facing it at all.
If I could tell my 14-year-old self something, it would be this: you can’t hold onto everything. You just can’t. Because what you force to stay will drip through your fingers like dry sand, and when you insist your hands hold onto too much, you end up dropping everything anyway, including the people and the things that matter most.
Besides, we never truly lose these individuals when they go, because our hearts are not like busy houses with open doors, people mingling in and out, but rather like elaborate puzzles: a beautiful collection birthed from unique encounters and experiences, a carefully crafted mosaic that cannot be duplicated, replaced or destroyed. So when someone walks away, it’s not a deduction, but an act of completion—they exit by laying their piece of the picture down.
So how do you say goodbye? Well, to answer a question I’ve so often asked myself: you just do. It’s not easy, no; it never really is. But that’s okay, because not every daisy in the garden is ours to pick. Sometimes all we get is the gift of an encounter, a temporary relationship, a sweet passing scent—and then it’s gone. Pain will always be the price of love, but to not pay it would render life meaningless, because of all the things this world has to offer, the most valuable gift it possesses the ability to give is its people.