My fleeting moments hold everlasting effects


In the last ten years, I’ve crossed paths with tens of thousands. Thinking about the number of people one simply comes across in an entire lifetime echoes an exponential function heading towards infinity. In the hallways of over half a dozen schools, in the streets of countless cities, in the heart of numerous places, there have been thousands that I’ve held ephemeral connections with, simply by being in the same place at the same time.

I consider it special when one of these thousands is specifically selected and becomes more than just another person to cross paths with. To think of the countless combinations of times or places that correlated precisely to form an association makes the art of a connection rather hallowed to me.

So in this last decade, there’s been perhaps a few hundred people that I’ve formed one of these connections with. Most of them through conversations and physical exchanges, words said and actions taken have formed an image of these people in my mind. Regardless of whether the interaction took place in fifth grade or five minutes ago, the sentiments garnered as a result still stand tall in my mind.

I’ve met many in fleeting moments. As a result, all that’s left in my mind are momentary snippets of people and their thoughts. I can’t remember their entire persona or each and every physical trait that makes them up, but there’s a general feeling of remembrance that is brought up each time I’m reminded of those I’ve formed a vital connection with, even if it was several years ago.

These friendships have now been reduced to the occasional post popping up on my phone.

My only reminiscence of these people, once so extraordinary and held so close to my heart, is the intermittent post on my phone, transporting a moment from their day into mine. Events and happenings from friends I once made on continents all over the world are infused into my day on the daily.

I see these posts, and I think of how I once thought of these people so differently than I do now. It’s funny how those once inseparable to you can become apparitions of the past in what seems like a blink of an eye. It’s not really just a transient moment, though; it’s been years, and these once cherished souls are now just phantoms of my past.

The saddest thing is that I no longer recognize these people on my screen. In my mind, my friends from Tampa are still the dopey eighth graders I knew and loved, and my friends from Shanghai are still the juvenile elementary school children I ran around with. But the actuality is far different from that.

In reality, these people are grown up. They are eighteen years old. They look like adults and do things only adults can because the children I knew are long departed. They are no longer the youthful adolescents that I knew.

I see these strange, almost unknown, people, and it genuinely takes me a few seconds to register whom it is that I might be looking at. Those I once held dear to me have of course changed so much in half a decade, but it’s to the point that I no longer recognize many of them at all.

According to my phone, a shy Russian girl I attended British boarding school with three years ago is now an eighteen-year-old at a club in Moscow, and it’s inherently strange to me. This post on my phone confounds me, but in reality, there’s nothing strange about it. This girl is no longer the diffident fourteen-year-old I knew.

So while the people themselves have changed far and wide, my image of those I once knew has remained rigid far after leaving those places. The result is a total discrepancy of perception.

If I genuinely remove myself for just a minute and completely erase my preconceived notions from my mind, things are far different. I’m left with an Instagram feed full of strangers I’ve never known.

If I really try hard to erase the images I have in my mind of children and adolescents I once knew, I’m left with no one but those around me right now. People are constantly changing, and I can’t keep up with the changes of hundreds that are so distanced from me.

It’s bizarre how a fleeting moment stays ingrained within you for as long as it does.