Reluctant Extrication

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend — or a meaningful day.
~ Dalai Lama

As I delved deeper into the dark tunnel of college, careers, and finances, inching further away from the posh and protected bubble of high school, it was impossible to prevent myself from losing faith in friendships and the nature of humanity. As time flew by, I began to develop an increasingly hard shell of cynicism, and just like a frightened snail, I crawled under it and relied on it for protection. I though that if I stayed under the shell and did not let anyone in, I would not get hurt anymore. But for the short time that I have known my roommate, I have learned more about how to navigate life without my shell, certainly, than what I expected to learn.

Almost everyone who meets her will few her as a paragon of perfection, with her pin-straight and thick silky black hair, her smooth and tan skin, her lean and upright stature, and her lithe movements and words. She walks gracefully as if she does not carry any weight, and words fall from her lips softly like pearls of wisdom beyond her years. She is calm and collected and peaceful as a small pond in the middle of the woods, and one would think that emotions simply bounce off her like the light, tickling wind, leaving her calm and unaffected.

However, subtle as she might act under pubic eye, living in the confines of the same cramped closet-like triple converted from a double, I have gotten to know the sides of her that are not as pretty. It seemed impossible to consolidate her contradictory character traits – she is rational yet emotional, consistent yet mercurial, and accepting yet judgmental. However, these less attractive qualities have not decreased her value as a person in my eyes, but have illustrated her emotional strength and maturity. She is not less susceptible to emotions than an average college student, but she is strong enough not to let them dictate her actions.

She has always been a mysterious character, which is partly why so many of my peers are naturally drawn to her. She has a somewhat aloof personality; she is very amiable, yet she keeps everyone at arm’s length. She has many respectful, kind, and warm friends, yet she is independent and does not rely on other people. She is very picky about her friends, and she once remarked to me “I don’t consider you my friend; I think of you as my roommate.” At first, I tried to ignore the sting of the comment, but as I considered it more deeply, I understood what she meant and discovered that the feeling was mutual. If we had not been assigned the same living arrangement in our first year of college, I’m not sure our personalities would allow our relationship to pass the acquaintance stage. Yet I soon grew accustomed to coming home and opening to door to her smooth black hair falling to her shoulders as she leaned over her Linear Algebra textbook, squeezed at her wooden desk under the bunk bed where she slept.

She is a remarkably intellectual individual. The majority of the students at our large public university are like factory robot,zombies, and grade machines. Although I cannot deny that my roommate was set on achieving that elusive A, she does not merely study for that purpose. I have encountered her on multiple occasions questioning the material and pushing her understanding to a deeper level. I must admit, rather shamefully, that I enjoyed the intellectual attention she has given me, often handing me her essays from Humanities class, her college transfer applications, or simply self reflections to read. It makes me proud that she views me as her intellectual equal, and someone that she can learn from.

This upcoming school term, she will be transferring to a small liberal arts college on the opposite coast of the country. I will not pretend I had an influential part in her admissions decision or her personal decision to accept the offer. I did, upon her request for advice, urge her to visit the schools she applied to before making her decision, and I believe it proved useful in narrowing down some of her choices. I also will not attempt to futilely cover up my disappointment in her decision. However, whatever it might be, I respect her decision and I have all the hopes in the world that she finds her new school intellectually and personally stimulating and fulfilling.

I did not quiet realize until very recently the extent of the impact she has had on me, and quite frankly, it was a frightening realization. It is very rare for me to allow someone, albeit unconsciously, to come so close to penetrating my shell – thus far, I believe I have only let one other person come so close. I recall all too well the shock, pain, denial, and anger, and for this reason, rather than allowing myself to be swallowed, squeezed, stretched, twisted, and thrown into this confusing emotional vortex, it is best for me to draw a boundary. I am now better at dealing with this emotional trap – I have made grave mistakes in the past, but I now know how to navigate relationships more safely.

How ironic is this? The one person who has made me aware of the Buddhist principles of non attachment is the one I must emotionally extricate myself from. This does not mean I will not cherish the wonderful memories and appreciate what I have learned from her. But now it is clear that she departing, both physically and emotionally, and chasing after something that is inevitably out of my grasp will only breed more misery. It has only been one year, and I have spent its entirety in bitterness over my past, not realizing the value what was right in front of me before it was too late. Words cannot completely describe how extremely hard it is for me to let go of anything after I realize its value. Although I am rather introverted, there are times when I enjoy physical and emotional company, and it is so rare for me to find people who touch me so deeply. However, friends will come and go, and there is something that can be learned from every friendship.

Time and time again, I am amazed by incredible complexity and unique nature of each human mind and of its interactions……

Ultimately, I take comfort in the fact that when I have no external friendships to depend on, I still have myself, my memories, a paper, and a pen…..

At least that is what I am trying to tell myself.

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