snapshot, 08

It was one of the coldet days of the year. My feet caught the roots and I kicked up snow that fell under the tongue of my sneakers. The trees were black, the sky was grey, and the creek bed frozen. I couldn’t hear the cars, but I could hear the wind and the branches and the last of the dead leaves clinging to the trees.

I looked up at the darkening sky and we began to climb out of the deep “v” of the creek bed, feet slipping on snow slipping on rotting leaves. I watched G, in his dark green coat, scampering up the side.


A photo of two people sleeping in the back of a car

S and T, then

I met S in 2005. By that point, I was already friends with T–S was her boyfriend. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore. I’d already known S and T finished undergrad and moved to Seattle. S got a masters of public finance. He works for a startup. T is getting a Ph.D. in statistics and is at the top of her class. I think they’re both pretty awesome

S & T, now

One of the things about S is that he and I have very little in common. Our lives diverged completely since 2009. In three years, he’s found a life for himself in Seattle, got a full time job, and is married. He and S, who’ve been a unit for a long time, only began (from my experience) to define themselves as adult individuals in 2008. They’ve been doing it solidly since then.

A and me, then

One of my fondest memories of S is from 2008. T was spending a semester in London, which forced them apart. He was going to visit her for spring break. A week or so before he left, we were sitting around in the living room. S looked down and ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up as he is wont to do. He looked up and said “I think I should ask her to marry me. I should just do it.”

A with a mandolin

A, now.

He didn’t ask her until the next year, but that was sort of a defining point in my knowing him: He was the kind of person who would get married. Not in a “we should get married” kind of way, but in a surprise proposal diamond ring popping the question kind of way.

A few weeks ago, when I was out west, S and I spent some time together. T was out of town, much to my own sadness. We wandered around Wallingford and the U District (I think) with W, had Korean dinner, and wandered back to the apartment he and T share with each other and no one else.

After W and I were on the bus headed back to Capitol Hill, he said “It’s nice you can still talk to each other.”

The fact is, S and I are completely different. In fact, all of my close friends from then–A, B, G, S, and T–are different from me.

A photo of m. eating butter.

me, now. Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2012.

As we were talking down the Burke-Gilman, I took off my shoes because they were uncomfortable. I suggested–mostly jokingly–that S and T start going dumpster diving. He scoffed at the idea. He commented on how lucky he is because he was able to go to Japan on his honeymoon.

He had a honeymoon.

The thing is, we aren’t really all that different. There are lots of surface differences, but I was always sort of the weirdo of the group. We have many similar values–some he is more extreme in and some I am more extreme in–and very different ways of expressing things. This is because S and I helped build each other.

G sitting on the Cathedral lawn

G, then. I took this picture of him in 2005.

We all helped build each other. KK, another friend of mine from then, and I appear to have even less in common. She is married, pregnant, has a mortgage, is getting a Ph.D. in bioinformatics, and is Catholic. We still have a shockingly similar set of values and can still talk.

Life is about building things. Relationships are about building things together, and the relationship itself is something you build. When these relationships are during your formative years, you’re not just creating the space between the people: you are, in a very inescapable way, creating each other.

A Jewish wedding, showing attendants holding the chuppa.

G, now. Holding a chuppa at a wedding.

I don’t think I was really a person until I met G. He helped build me by calling me a jerk when someone needed to. A was there for me during several crises. T reminded me that other people matter to me. B taught me about making decisions. S showed me what it means to love another person.

Of course we had other experiences. The structures of our relationships are grand, but the pieces that make them up are the nights sitting around watching the X-Files and all those movies, the days cooking whole meals, midnight rides to the one Dunkin Donuts in Pgh, mornings waiting in line waiting for a seat so we could eat pancakes.

So much of who I am was built by these people, through our shared experiences, that I don’t worry about what will happen with us knowing each other. I don’t worry that I won’t be able to talk to them, not just talk, but understand, communicate, and have new experiences together. They built me and I built them.

*B doesn’t take pictures of himself. None of these photos belong to me, so they are exempt from the CC-BY-SA license.


My relationship with R has so far been characterized by two things: 1) attempts to navigate schedules over distance and 2) him saying or doing something and then me, in the odd moments on my bike, realizing what it -could- mean and then nervously telling him several possible meanings and wanting to see which, if any, he meant by it. The answer is almost always entirely innocuous, I spent time worrying over nothing, and then he placates my new set of worries that I am too ridiculous.

These converged a few weeks ago when he decided to share his calendar with me.

Exchange, Google, and the Internet (said like Jen from the IT crowd), have made it possible for us to share calendars. When I look at my calendar, I also see the calendars of my house, my friends’ house, G, and R. When G shared his calendar with me, it was in an effort to plan a visit and an experiment with emacs. His calendar is sparse, marking his internship hours and only the most important–or necessary–of events. G, my best friend of nearly seven years, sharing these stark details of his life with me seems like something not even worth thinking about. This is not to say he isn’t worth thinking about, but our relationship, almost Bostonian in its matrimonial properties, leads me to find it natural to see “Internship hours” cover a swath of my calendar in the ever changing colors I assign it.

At work, we can view one another’s calendars, but the specifics are blocked off. We merely know, in these big empty blocks marching across the screen, that someone is “busy.” R’s calendar, in contrast, marks his regular flight schedules, his lengthy trips, and mysterious events like “blood test,” that I can only frown at and wonder. I am aware of the upcoming inspections on his new flat. This isn’t just what he tells me–the annoying search for someone who will inspect it but not try to sell him anything that I witnessed with the help of the internet–but the time it will actually occur. I know the codes of the airports he flies out of and what time his flights actually are–all automatically transposed from his time zone to mine.

This sort of hypersharing, my mind tells me, should feel intimate rather than clinical. Similar to how I feel about G’s calendar, seeing R’s lacks a direct intimacy and rather evokes a sensation of voyeurism. It’s factual. It makes things, to some extent, easier. I know when R’s in meetings, so I won’t expect answers to questions I shoot his way. I know when he’s at a conference or a meeting, so I can go out of my way to remind him how much I like him and try to soften the stress of frequent travel. These are inherently intimate acts, just as seeing his calendar overlaid on my own ought to be. I wouldn’t share my calendar with most people. No one needs to see the names of the lineup of doctors I see, the secret names I use to refer to the people in my life as I denote their birthdays with terms I never introduce them with, the lunches and coffees I now put on my calendar so no one will try and schedule me for meetings during those times, the reoccuring classes and meetings I have weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly. Not only do they not need to, I don’t want them to.

Hypersharing is becoming typical. Enabled by technology, Foursquare, Google, Twitter, and all allow us to share our locations by checking in wherever we are–as well as thoughts and notes. We can say who we checked in with, we can mark our micromessages so they appear on screens floating in ice cream shops. Zillow makes how much people paid for their properties web-accessible. The building I live in now was purchased in 2003 for $610,000–matters of public record, but now easily findable from my bed. A U.K. equivalent site is happy to tell me how much R paid for the aforementioned new flat (well, not quite yet. It is happy to tell me how much the last person who purchased it paid.) Dopplr is just one of many sites that people can use to share their travel plans. Warmshowers, like courch surfing for touring cyclists, has the phone numbers of my housemates displayed in their profile. The Personal Genome Project has volunteers who publicly share their “DNA sequences, medical information, and other personal information with the research community and the general public.” They trade their privacy for scientific knowledge, future promises of accessibility, and getting their genome sequenced. Sharing is becoming an increasingly de-intimized space.

Recently, two people I know became engaged and the video of the proposal made its way to facebook within days. In my mute voyeuristic awe I watched. As I always do when I see these things, I let my mind wonder how it became such that we share so intently and completely every moment of our lives, every detail, with everyone else. I struggle with my own uncertainty as I change notes in my calendar, wondering as R looks at his own if he will see them and then later connect names with my names for people and connect who they all were to me once. I wonder if he looks at the ominous markings on my own calendar, “Dr. S,” “Dr. O,” “Dr. L,” “Meeting with JB,” and asks himself which doctor is which. With similar feelings, I watch with envy at the sheer integrity at how genuine others are with so much of themselves that they share. How they put their lives up for anyone to see. I think of all the posts I’ve written that I haven’t put up because I lack the courage to give up those small parts of myself even though I think those are the ones most worth showing to others. I look at my calendar, marked with the lives of others, and think about how I ought to search for meaning in these acts of openness, how I ought to find it, how I ought to believe it’s there, but don’t.