by Amelia Kanan
In old French, “adieu” is used to say goodbye in the most final terms imaginable. It literally translates to “to God”. I learned that when I was 4. A teacher explained that “to God” meant “to death”. I never forgot that because right after I learned about it, every time I would say “goodbye” to someone close to me, I would whisper in my brain “adieu”. Because, as a little kid with anxiety, I truly believed that every time I said goodbye to someone, I would never see them again because they might die.
Dramatic? No doubt. That’s a symptom of anxiety. Extreme thinking. All or nothing. Death. Worst case scenarios are the instinctual projection of an outcome. Luckily, I managed to kick this habit (for the most part) a few years ago. I shook it off like how one shakes a heavy backpack off after a long trip. However, just because you’re not carrying the weight anymore, you are still responsible for all those things in the backpack. You might go take a shower or a nap before you decide to unzip it and see all the dirty shit you have to either clean off and find a place for or just throw away. What’s functional weight and what’s dead, useless weight? These past years, I’ve been rifling through that bag. Deciphering the things I need to clean off and keep and what I need to pitch.
I’ll admit, I’ve gotten a little throw-away-happy. I have my own issues with all that. One being is that I have validated the absence of everything that was in there that now I’m not sure what I actually need. Some may say “if you’re happy with an empty backpack, then good for you, way to travel light” others could say “that’s insane and crazy to just go through life so unprepared”. I’d like to be in the middle. I want to have just enough.
Recently, someone expressed a frustration with me and how I seem to alienate myself from people and that I keep myself at arms’ length. Anyone who truly knows me, knows I don’t keep myself at arms length at all and that I’ve actually had to work hard on that. I also come from a frame of mind that as human beings, we can’t put each other in our backpacks. People are not things or belongings. We can walk next to each other but sometimes someone needs to turn left when another wants to go right. It doesn’t mean that anyone loves a person less because they don’t want to go to the same next camp. And just because you’re not going to the same next destination doesn’t mean you should be angry at the other person or even assume that you will never see them again. That is the sheer thrill of life. That surprise visit from someone you love when you turn onto a leg in life that is a little harder than the last. We can’t control each other and why would we want to? It’s similar to when someone says “You’ve changed”, as if it’s a negative thing. For me, change is growth, transformation and evolution. Why wouldn’t I want all of those things for myself and the people I love?
I have had a hard time making friends, here in Detroit. And, I do think a lot of it has to do with people seeing me as “flakey”. To me, “flakey”means unreliable. And I know myself well enough to say that I may be a lot of things but unreliable is not one of them. Getting angry at someone for being absent socially, I don’t know how to respond to that. I’ve got other fish I need to fry (or in my case, poach) like this little life path of mine.
It also makes me appreciate the ones who have walked enough legs of my path to be proud of who I have become, rather than annoyed by it. Early on my trail, they saw me for the true mess I used to be. My backpack was unzipped, shit was falling out, I always had some sort of injury and although my load was heavy, I was still missing key pieces. They chose to see beyond that and love me. They took care of me, lent me their tools until I got my own and truthfully, kept me alive when I couldn’t do that for myself.
When I was ready to go off alone and leave them, it was okay. No one said “Whoa, whoa whoa. You owe us. All the shit we did for you. You owe us to stay.” Because they were ready for another path just like I was ready. Plus, for as much as they helped me, I had helped them in some way. And just as we loved each other when we met, we loved each other when we parted. And here, today, years later…as I’ve turned onto a new leg in life, there are some familiar faces.
The faces of those people who have always been confident in the love I had for them. Those who never questioned the bond we shared. The ones who understand that when I’m not talking to someone as much as I have in the past it just probably means I’m busy learning something I should be learning and vice versa. We might miss each other, wonder what the other is experiencing but we don’t question the connection we share. These people also know that as much as I change, I stay the same, exact Amelia. The girl who will infuriate you all the while making you laugh so you don’t punch her in the face. The girl who will stay up for three days straight because she doesn’t want a moment to end. And the girl who will drive across the country just to pick you up because you’re depressed and take you home for the weekend to feed and snuggle you back to happiness.
I don’t throw people away. And, I’m sorry, I really didn’t want to say one negative thing but I’m going to right now…Shame on you if you ever think that of me. Unless someone dies, no one is going anywhere. We are all just travelling around, experiencing, living and learning through every moment. All I can do is my best. For me, that means having confidence in and respect for the love and moments I have shared with people and to just keep walking.