15 June 2005

Is 343 email messages too many? I think it probably is, so today, when I could have been doing something much more productive, I decided to see if pages two through seven of my inbox and the multitude of folders I have (which were supposed to help me become organized, imagine that) actually had anything useful worth saving. As expected, most of it was stuff that was really relevant at one time, but now just serves as a useful reminder of things that occurred during the past year. As in, "hmmm, I forgot just how often [random person] bugged me with questions and requests."

But the freaky thing was the last email I found from someone who I considered a very good friend. She wasn't someone I'd consider a best friend--I think it's kind of hard to be best friends with someone of the opposite sex, but that's for another blog post. We had known eachother a while though, and talked freely about most things. I even, at one time, had thought she would be fun to date. Fortunately, we seemed to have this silent agreement not to broach that subject (or maybe it was just a unilateral thing going on in only my head, who knows) , and, honestly, I'm glad we never did. It would have just been too weird. Besides, she's married now.

The email was dated over six months ago. Six months! It hadn't seemed that long at all, but it was. And since that email, we haven't communicated at all. There was no sense of closure in that email, no hint of finality. Frankly, it was just one of our generic back-and-forths, discussing innocuous daily life stuff. I know I wrote back, but I don't go through the trouble of logging every email sent and received (that would be a lot of emails). I'm assuming it was more generic stuff, totally random, the kind sent between friends every day.

Now, you're probably thinking that my impulse was to send an email to her at that very moment, to make an attempt to resume our dormant friendship. Maybe that should have been my impulse, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. We're in different places now, and I think we were both realizing that some sort of gap was developing. Still, I'm bothered that someone who was basically a consistent fixture in my life suddenly dropped out of it. Granted, only six months have passed, but "dropped" seems like the right word. And I realize it was only email, but we had known eachother in "real" life before that. Besides, I've known a couple of people solely by email who I can honestly say I think I have more of a friendship with than some of my friends at law school, even if it is electronic.

As I thought about this one instance, I realized that relationships are never black and white. Perhaps this is a late age to realize something so fundamental, but I never gave it much thought before. Relationships never really start or finish. Just today, an email exchange that started for purely business reasons morphed in just a few sentences to something surprisingly friendly and familiar. It wasn't planned. These things never are. It's like the party you attend out of obligation to someone else, where some random exchange of pleasantries evolves into something more. I never really feel like such occurrences are a "start," though. I mean, obviously, you're meeting someone for the first time, but when you really "click" with someone, part of you feels like you must have known him or her already, in some weird sense. An odd notion, but that's how it always seems to me, and it's one of the things that makes life cool.

On the other end, though, relationships never seem to finish with any sense of finality, or with any sense of regularity. Goodbyes, as final as they might seem at the time, really don't mean anything. You can think that people you didn't really miss are out of your life, only to have them reappear unexpectedly, as if they were never really gone. Or, you can suddenly have the people who you think will be in your life forever simply fade away, without rhyme or reason. And as much as you try to get them back in your life, your efforts seem pointless. Maybe this is just the way things are supposed to work. Maybe we're simply meant to have certain people at certain times, because of where we are in life. I believe God guides us, or at least nudges us, in a certain direction, of course, and I'm sure that our relationships play a large role in this. But at the same time, it seems cold, even a little inhuman, to think that our relationships are so functional. Surely some of our most important relationships are just meant to exist for their own sake, for that unique whatever-it-is that exists when two people have a good vibe.

The only conclusion I can draw is that sometimes, when it comes to people, we're simply wrong. Sometimes we think that the person we can talk for hours with will always be there for those wonderfully meaningless conversations. And sometimes, that insignificant minute chatting on the elevator with a complete stranger becomes something much more months later. I expected that this all would become more predictable as I got older, but I'm slowly learning that growing up means more uncertainty, more gray areas, more time spent trying to figure out confusion. I guess relationships aren't so much something we actively cultivate, as they are something that life brings to us. If we're lucky, the good ones grow into something and last. Maybe this isn't the most proactive view to take, and maybe I could have more control if I tried a little harder. In the end, though, I'm not sure I would want it.

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