It had been years since I thought about this former colleague. I was an intern and she wasn’t in the office every day, but we were friendly. I remember she had cancer and wrote a book about it. Last week, while browsing the blog of my former employer, I saw she passed away in January.
Her death affects me in no way, but that didn’t stop an unidentifiable twinge when I found out. Maybe it reminded me of how inconsequential my life is. Between Twitter and the news sites I follow, every day I see someone has died. I keep scrolling or read something else. Compare this to the devastation felt when a loved one dies. Then there’s the gray area my former colleague was in. I’d met her, I knew her, but her life had no substantial consequence on mine. Nor does her death.
That’s how it goes for most people we cross paths with. You see them on a regular basis and then you don’t, for whatever reason. And despite not thinking of them again, we believe in our hearts they’re still existing in some space.
There are people from my past I text several times a year. For example, the one person in the world I know who will find a certain meme hilarious. How would I feel if he died? Damn, that’s crazy. He hasn’t been married that long. Then I’d text Laura, You remember… Is that how he would remember me? Most likely, and that’s scary. I want to make an impact on everyone I meet, but if my life gets less than a minute of remembrance, how well did I do? (These thoughts are making me lightheaded).
We matter to someone. Hopefully. But to the person who stumbles upon news of my death while watching the news, I’m practically nonexistent. And to the people I once called friends (is that a stretch? Acquaintances?) for a short while, I simply existed. I’m not sure which is worse.
P.S. Another athlete came forward about dealing with mental illness. Kevin Love detailed what it was like having a panic attack during an NBA game.