The Streetcar of Your Life Keeps Moving On

All of the people, places, and things in your life are subject to change. Even your involvement with family can be greatly transformed with adulthood, school, a job transfer, marriage, divorce, or tragedy. My grandma used to say, that, like a streetcar, people get on and off at every stop. Few if any will travel with you all the way to the end of the line.

Sometimes those departures are unexpected and sudden, perhaps due to a crash or a left turn in your own path. It hurts when loved ones and those we depend on for support and even for our own identity disappear from our lives. But it’s going to happen. You’ve probably removed yourself from the lives of others at times as well. You want and expect those people to go on, and you need to move on with your own life too.

It can be helpful to start out with the realization that other people, like you, are not perfect. They can’t always give you what you want, and they don’t always know what you need. And their failures of strength and character are not your fault. They may just not be equipped to handle major or long-term life changes, so they choose to protect themselves from the pain of their own sympathy or the bad luck of being near you.

A lot of people just shrink in the face of other people’s tragedies and dilemmas. Many people can’t deal with funerals or face their friends who have lost someone. They don’t know what to say to you when you lose your job or get arrested or contract a serious illness, so they avoid you. They hide. They run. They can’t deal.

There are times when, even though you are the one in pain, it may be up to you to make the first move if you want to keep a person in your life. There are times when other people have their own life-changing event that causes their path to separate from yours. There are times when you may have just “blown it” with your old friends and have to reboot your life and reinvent the new 2.0 version of yourself.

The good news is that the possibilities for a new, fulfilling, and successful life exist everywhere, no matter where you may go. You see, your past mistakes may be a hurtful memory or an insurmountable challenge for the people you left behind at the last bend in the road, but they are just fascinating stories for the new people you meet at the next stop. They are starting on the first page of your new adventure, and, to them, the old drama is just part of the amazing story that made you the new and better person you are today.

The guys on your company softball team only know how to deal with you as a great shortstop, but after the IED that changed your life in Afghanistan, the new version of yourself can immediately fit perfectly in the wet cement of new relationships. So your husband ran away with the babysitter or you were caught in the coatroom with the groom after your best friend’s wedding. Events that are horrible and dramatic when they happen are just interesting stories to new friends later on.

Life is a series of converging and diverging streams and tacks, and we are each the navigator of our own route. When one path is blocked, we can curse the tree blocking the road, blame another passenger, or find a suitable detour. Our traveling companions can never be guaranteed, and we cannot guarantee that we will continue to travel with someone else forever either – even if we make a vow.

The most precious gift a person can give is themselves – their time, their support, their concern and affection. But it’s theirs to give or withhold. If people could force you to be their friend or lover, you’d be married to that weirdo who stalked you in high school. Be grateful for the friends you still have, and open your heart and mind to the possibility of making new friends. Be thankful for those rare people who are happy when you call them at 1 o’clock in the morning because you need a shoulder to cry on and are always there for you – and be a better friend yourself.

The only guaranteed passenger on your streetcar of life is you. Some of the people you thought would be at your side forever will fade away, and others will step up and reach out to you. Take their hand and try it on for size. You might be surprised how good and comforting it feels. And keep in mind that sometimes the best friends are not the ones we love or miss the most, but the ones who love us and prove it with their care and loyalty.