To know yourself, look back at those you’ve bumped into along the way
I live with ghosts. You do too.
Ghosts of people lost. Those who we’ve grown up with — like distant aunts and uncles (or those you were once close to) — and ones who you’ve brushed past, like a smidgen of fog that once tapped your nose on its way to the asphalt. My happiest childhood memories — the ones I can easily recall — revolve around people I barely see, I rarely talk to; my grandma, who would wake up at 4am to water the grass for me so I could walk on it barefoot and cool as I studied on a hot morning. My aunt who I may not speak to for years but when I do will say hello with the warmth of someone I see each day.
Then there’s the person on the plane who helped me with a bag when my back hurt. (The gratitude lives on as does the lesson; look around always when flying just in case someone needs a helping hand.)
These snapshots are trapped in time and when I think of times past, they linger with all the tangibility of a small blanket draped across my shoulder.
Then there are the ghosts of moments spent — with the most inconsequential of people, like a waiter in the middle of nowhere, and with the most important ones — think perfectly still blade of light that contoured you the right way at the right time. Like when I went on a solo trip to Japan, couldn’t speak the language but strangers — who couldn’t speak mine — came up to me to help me out. Like the moment I tried my first bite of Kobe beef. Like the first time I saw my byline in a paper.
Ghosts of times lost — in misery. When the wave of anger or hurt whirls itself around your neck in a noose of hate. Think back to the time there was a fight; maybe you were right, maybe you were wrong; the only thing that stays is the darkness, that feeling of an absence of light.
Ghosts of what could be — those little tea bags of hopes and dreams you birth in your head waiting to brew into something. Each time I buy a lottery ticket I must stare into space, the threads of possibility weaving new pictures for me to consider. What will I do with how much and when and why and how.
Ghosts of what never will be — things you wanted or hoped that were run over by people or circumstance or the glasses of love/anger/fear that you wore yourself at the time. The worst critic, the worst roadblock is yourself. Freedom lingers just beyond this heavy chain of disappointment.
Ghosts of yourself — you are who you are now because of the choices you made, but the others (who picked a different path) are thoughts that splint inside your head. Focus on a day of doubt, the prism is clear, your hues become more visible.
In this rigmarole and for other people then we turn into transparent spirits too, hovering above them — turning obtuse when the moment is just right, in circumstances similar to the ones they met you in.
Sometimes when this moment cannot be denied, we reach out to reconnect; sometimes through memories, sometimes through a phone. Or we try to forget, waving impatiently at the stubborn thought that’s come our way.
Can we really exorcise those spirits and move on? Or must we live with them as an extension of the self? There’s a gravity-like influence we all exert on one another, pushing and pulling atoms in all the quantum spheres to create a multitude of worlds, defined by choices made and those lost; an infinity of possibilities.
To know yourself, look back at those you’ve bumped into along the way. To know yourself, know your cohort.
To know yourself, know your ghosts. And more importantly, know what kind of ghost you are and the kind you’d like to be.
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