A year ago this Christmas, I lost my cousin. At 24 years old, he died of bone cancer that metastasized all over his body. There was little the doctors could do.
We weren't what I would call close, though we had a connection that others saw. Despite the fact that we rarely saw each other, I miss him. I also feel that while he was alive, I didn't do enough to make us closer. We chatted on social media, but we only saw each other on holidays and occasionally through the summer. I regret not reaching out more. I regret not making our connection more than virtual.
I live in a huge Canadian city. As cities go, it's not the biggest ever, but it's still big enough that you can be completely anonymous. I often walk briskly down the street and think about the people I pass. What kind of lives do they have? What are they thinking about? Are we just faces in the crowd? Does anyone really see anyone here?
And like my feelings about my cousin, I feel like we don't do enough to connect in real life with each other. We're on our phones constantly in a world of social media -- I, myself, am connected constantly. I'm always checking something, responding to messages virtually, emailing people. I think it's easy to lose yourself in the virtual world. It's easy to pretend you have tonnes of friends, but how many of them are actually checking in with you outside of social media? Which ones can you depend on in a crisis? Which ones will you regret not seeing when they're gone for good?
In a city this big, I think it's easy to fade into the background here. I've found myself awkward with people in real life, wondering if I'm appearing as stupid as I feel. Wondering if the many faces on the subway actually see me as a person, or as another body that's taking up space on the seat beside them. I wonder how to meet people, how to connect. I wonder if my friends think about me the way I think about them.
These are egocentric, selfish thoughts, but I think they're really indicative of human nature. I've always taken the view that no one is special, because everyone is. I can name something special about just about every person I know. I can name something I love about them -- something that no one else can do. And I know that's why we're friends. That's why we're close.
Do you ever think about what people say about you when you're not in the room? What they say about you to their friends or family? The things said at my cousin's funeral were beautiful. But did he hear them when he was alive? Did he feel as adequate, loved, wanted and special as we felt he was? It's debatable, really. It's debatable if anyone really feels wanted in our fast-paced world.
One of my jobs is as a social media coordinator. I'm trying to make the brand I work for heard, special, important. And as a writer, self-promotion is huge. I often feel lost in the shuffle, screaming into the void, wondering if the people I admire and think are so special are ever even going to see me in the huge faceless crowd. It can be despairing. It can be hard to remember your own importance and to feel relevant in today's world.
These are things I want people in my life to know. I see you. I see what you do. I know I need to call more. I know I need to reach out to you, to let you know I love you. It's so easy to think that a Facebook message or Twitter retweet shows my love, but I know it really doesn't let you know just how much you really cross my mind.
Maybe I need to write a snail mail letter, in my own handwriting that few people can read, and tell you. Maybe I need to write a poem and give it to you in person. Maybe we need to meet at some coffee shop for overpriced food and beverages and laugh until we cry. Maybe seeing the tears will make us feel more real to each other.
It's time to disconnect and really reach out. I want to give my loved ones a hug for real. I want them to know I think they're important. They're important to who I am as a person, and they're important in society.
This city of millions is the city I chose to be my home. I'm the only one that can let my loved ones know how important I think they are. I'm the only one that can state my own importance in the crowd. I'm the only one who can stand up and assert that I'm special, I'm worth listening to, I'm amazing.
I am, and so are you.