When I was little, I had a Barbie mermaid.
She had this golden emaciated tail with red silky hair that I profoundly loved. One day when I came back from school, I entered my room only to find her tail broken and the ugliest haircut ever.
Let’s skip the part where my cousin decided to do this to her…anyhow, I cried for days and refused to speak to anyone. The thing is, I thought I was going to keep that Barbie for a lifetime. Realizing that I’d only had it for a season broke my heart.
This “little me” hasn’t fully changed. Real people replaced dolls, and the people who crossed my path for only a season got the best of me—but isn’t that how we all feel when we go through separation?
Throughout our lifetime, we cross paths with different people. Some don’t make it even the next few days, while others endure the worst of years. People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
And though we automatically assume that every person we meet fits into the lifetime category, oftentimes, reality knocks us out and proves us wrong.
There are friends we wish to keep and lovers from whom we never want to separate. There are people we meet for a few hours, and we may crave only a few days with them. And then, we meet those on airplanes, trains, or out on the streets—and we wonder if they’ll just remain strangers.
And though the nature of every interaction varies, we can neither predict the end result nor alter it. Who we may think is a lifetime companion turns out to be only a seasonal experience. And who we believe is nothing but a temporary experience may stay and prevail over the cruelty of time.
Since it is our nature to hold on to what brings us gratification, we usually focus on “what could have been,” rather than “what will be.” It appears to me that we are rarely satisfied with the results. Commonly, we tend to desire those who enter our lives for a season and understate those who will stay for a lifetime.
I’m slowly realizing that the dissatisfaction that springs from separation (or presence) is not the purpose of these encounters. Last year, a fellow traveler who I met in Spain told me something that still strikes a chord. He said, “History repeats itself until you learn from it.”
At that moment, I comprehended that the people who come into my life for a season will keep on coming in different forms and in different stories until I learn my lesson. They fundamentally prepare the path for the people who will enter my life for a lifetime.
That said, there’s a gift in every interaction that lies beneath our misconceptions, hopes, and desires. In other words, whether a person is here for a season or for a lifetime, there’s always a reason behind it—and it’s up to us to notice it.
I don’t believe that the universe is a set of accidents happening. What does make sense to me, however, is that everything happening right now—at this very moment—is exactly how it is supposed to be. And while I’ve often pondered in the past why I met certain people (and perhaps wished to “unmeet” them), I no longer dwell on that question. The truth is that every single person is a ring in an endless chain—each ring leading to the next.
There are people who have awakened in us emotions we might never experience again. We might have lost ourselves with some, while finding ourselves with others. There are people who might have broken us or who have fixed us—if we only forget the nature of what was and focus on what will be.
For plants to grow, they need sunlight, water, air, and a set of other basic needs. Strip a plant from one of its essential needs, and it will wilt. We are no different than plants or trees. We need elements to grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. What water is to a plant, another person may be to us.
Don’t focus on whether a person will be here for a season or a lifetime. Look at the reason instead. What have you learned? How can you apply that lesson to your present life? How has this person helped shape who you are?
When we cross paths with new people, consider skipping the question, “How long will this last?” We don’t know how long it will last—this encounter will last until that person’s work is done. Consequently, what we should ask is, “How am I going to benefit from this experience? How am I going to use this encounter to help me grow?”
The moment we see people as lessons, rather than objects we yearn to own, our perception of life will automatically change. Then, we will know that every experience—good or bad—only means more rowing toward the shore. Keep rowing, don’t stop.
It’s not about what we want or wish to keep; it’s about what we need and what is meant to stay.