The smiles will be lost to memory long before the laughter stops echoing in our heads, and the hazy feelings will linger in varying degrees. The hangovers will be forgotten as soon as we say, “Never again,” so intently in the moment, so disingenuously in reality. We will immortalize these memories one pixelated, filtered photo at a time. We’ll text and call and post and tweet that we’ll do it again, do it soon, do it together.
I was 8 the first time I ever said goodbye to anyone. My grandmother was ill for a long time, and we knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it easier. We grieved, we coped, and we honored her memory. She’d lived a long life.
The second time was harder. It was on my 18th birthday. There’d been a car accident out on the Palisades cliffs; my best friend, someone I’d known since preschool, had been killed. I was inconsolable. Not only because I missed him — I did and still do, terribly — but also because he had so much to live for. We all did. We were so young. Youth is often wasted on the young, as they say.
He hardly had that chance to waste it though, before it was wasted on him. It felt unfair. It was unfair. Loss always is.
No matter how much we try to evade it, loss is inevitable. It hurts every time, and we can’t outrun the hurt. We’re not supposed to. And that will be okay. We will grieve. We will mourn. We will honor them and remember them. They are indelible, not just on our minds, but in our hearts too. We will learn how to live anyway, not quite for them, but not without them either because still, we will keep little pieces of them with us always.
Because living in there here and now less about living fast and risking the consequences, and more about living deliberately — making our lives worth living, and living them the way we would have with the people who maybe didn’t have the chance we still do. So we laugh more and stay up later and travel further and run faster and take bigger risks and love harder. We search for that one mark only we can make in someone else’s memory, in someone’s life, in the great expanse of knowledge and in the world. And we don’t stop until we find it, and even then, we keep going. We keep living.
Though we may one day be gone, our memories won’t be. How we made other people laugh and think and feel won’t be, either. The things we did and said and made and contributed will be our legacy, and whether it’s conscious or not, we aim to leave good ones. Legendary ones, even, in our own small ways.
So laugh louder and hug fiercely and brave the late nights that turn into early morning hours as best you can. Make more, do more, stop worrying about the possible negative outcomes. The ends will outweigh the means as long as you keep pursuing both simultaneously. Love someone so much your heart is fit to burst, and love as many people as you can this way. Love everyone this way, if you can help it. Everyone deserves that kind of radical love, and being free with your love doesn’t make it any less special.
Make a tiny masterpiece out of caring for another person. Start with a small bit of wonderful. You’ll eventually realize that was always the only thing you needed.