I think it’s special, cosmic even, to be changed irrevocably by someone. Who would I be without you? You made me smarter, sharper, more willing. I realize now how rare that is to find. Someone who sees your potential and also your flaws. And can hold both those sides of you in equal regard.
I felt essentially porous around you. At the time, that was love.
Here’s what I mean when I say critical coincidences: if you think back on your life there’s probably a couple of critical moments where things sharply veered you toward a certain path or made you who you are. Events, circumstances, people.
When my brother was born, they told me to cradle his head carefully, tenderly, because babies’ skulls are still soft. Impressionable. We had to be careful because anything could shape it differently. I think there are similar times in adulthood where we survive on sheer softness. When we move to new places, meet new people, open ourselves up to new experiences. This is when critical coincidences happen most rapidly. In a state of pure openness.
I’d be starkly different if I didn’t meet the people I did when I met them. Or been in the places I was when I was developing rapidly. Years ago, H taught me how to observe people, how to be perceptive and intuit needs and desires. A showed me that if you put enough sheer effort in anything it became attainable, accessible to you. These are instinctual ways I operate now. These days I acknowledge I’m just a living composite of everyone I’ve ever loved.
Saturday afternoon. It is still raining. The days blend and leak into one another. I take the 22 again and again up Fillmore and down Japantown. Reminds me of old routines: a warm, crispy injeolmi pastry and a stroll. Out of the many lives I could have lived, I am here. Out of my many selves, I am impossibly close to this one and these people and this place. Cypress and clear sunlight and cold wind. I’m still porous in so many ways. I used to think sensitivity, mutability was a bad thing and now I realize it just means I approach the world like a child still — forever touching things and stubbornly wanting to know what they mean. It’s actually a good thing to be so receptive to the world. It means you pay more attention to it, fully grounded and present to notice what shows up.
When I meet someone new at a dinner party all I want to do is ask them: where did you come from? How did you get here? What were the crossroads, where was the road forked in different directions? Which path did you take?
For me, my story is one of salient serendipity. I got into college essentially by straying from a tour group and picking up a brochure. Some of my close friends in SF came into my life because I post my thoughts on the internet. I got this apartment I’m staying in by accidentally expanding my craigslist search by $500 and then I bargained with the landlord until it fit the budget. These things don’t exist in another life — I wouldn’t have found this little corner of sunlight. I wouldn’t have met you.
Yet I don’t believe anything is perfectly fated. Or that people are fated for us. I think they are critical coincidences where something special appears, not for long. Something mysterious that unravels itself little by little into the years to come. The job of my lifetime is following the thread wherever it leads.
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PPS: You might like my other essays about relationships: dear friend or perfect stranger or finding the right people
Question of the Week
What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year? (And is there a version of an answer?) - via Moon Lists
What I’m reading (I have many recs this week!)
I liked this essay on intellectual compatibility in love by Ann
But why do you need to be intellectually compatible with your partner? Asks one of my friends. Why do you need conversation with someone who understands the direction you’re trying to go and improvises with you to get there? How close do you require mutual representations to be? Audre Lorde writes, “the sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.” But what is unique about the sharing of intellectual joy over the sharing of physical, emotional, or psychic/spiritual joy?
A few more substacks I’ve been enjoying: Priya’s Dispatches from Chrysalis, loved Evana’s (from Arbiter of Distaste) recent post (so lyrical, precise), and also really like Chloe in Letters
As for books, I am still slowly meandering through Saving Time (by Jenny Odell) and I just downloaded Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez
"Saturday afternoon. It is still raining. The days blend and leak into one another. I take the 22 again and again up Fillmore and down Japantown. Reminds me of old routines: a warm, crispy injeolmi pastry and a stroll. Out of the many lives I could have lived, I am here. Out of my many selves, I am impossibly close to this one and these people and this place."
I love your ability to make the mundane meaningful
"Yet I don’t believe anything is perfectly fated. Or that people are fated for us. I think they are critical coincidences where something special appears, not for long. Something mysterious that unravels itself little by little into the years to come. The job of my lifetime is following the thread wherever it leads."
Crossroads where you know you can choose one direction or another, usually in hindsight for a lot of us. If we're listening often enough, we know right when we're asked to choose. Occasionally just before they hit.
What's always curious to me is when people worry about choosing the 'wrong way' when they describe those situations. Sometime in my late 20s I started seeing them as places where the ley lines come together and split again. You can choose, but these are all points of destiny. Options. You really can't choose wrong unless you refuse to live the path you take.
Beautiful entry, and a wonderful lens for seeing the way forward.