Not the Jews or the kids I was in charge of when I was a camp counselor.
Not those people. Not any people.
The ones I chose. Who chose me.
Like Christina once said on Grey’s Anatomy (back when it was good, I think before that Denny guy died and then kept coming back which is when I basically gave it up): “She’s my person.”
Yes, my person. My people.
The ones who know where I am most of the time and worry if I don’t report I arrived where I was supposed to arrive. The ones who care about the minute details of my life – what I had for dinner, which t-shirt I decided to wear, how I wore my hair, my seat number on the plane – in ways that even I don’t always think about or care. In ways I never imagined another human being would.
The ones who care about everything beyond and beneath those little things. My heart. My soul. My dreams. My past and my future.
Nobody has tons of “my peoples.” You may have tons of friends and even more acquaintances and even more Facebook friends. Those are different, and important, too. But those are not your people. If we are fortunate, we have a handful of people.
Your people aren’t always those who are in your face 24/7. Your people do not need to live your city or state or country. (One of my people lives in California. I live in Florida. Peopleness is not dependent on whether you will run into that person at the grocery store or whether you are in the time zone.)
Your people today may not have been your people of last year. Maybe one or two are. Maybe not. Your people of next year may be different than right now.
No matter. People doesn’t always have to mean forever, but people means everything right now in this moment.
Regardless of what your people’s departments or areas of specialties are, they share their unconditional love for you in common. There isn’t much you can say or do to push them away (not for very long at least).
There have also been those whom you treated as your people — dropping everything for them, being there no matter what, loving with all you had, but they didn’t “people” you back. It was disappointing, hurtful, heartbreaking even at times. How could someone be your people when you weren’t theirs? It is tough. But you moved on. Or you will eventually. And you learn that true peopleness is two-way. Always.
And of course, different people for different people things. My best friend gets lots of food-, angst-, physical-functions- and rant-related stuff from me. She gets lots of kid stuff and Ex stuff and “remind me why I don’t hate the rest of the world stuff.” She gets forwards of all travel itineraries and weird creeper emails. Sometimes when too many hours have gone by without a reply, one of us will text the other, “Please confirm aliveness.” We fantasize about meeting in random airports and sitting together all day writing and yet never speaking a word to each other. We plan reality shows together and cross-country tours where we stalk and then become great friends with well-known authors and writers (Hi, Natalie Goldberg!). The depth to which she cares about the details of me remind me that this is true love.
My boyfriend gets some of that and other stuff, too. He loves my mess more than I do most of the time. He gets me in a way I never expected anyone to ever get me. He has my back big time. He says exactly the right thing to bring me off the ledge, drives behind me to the gas station at 10:30 at night because he doesn’t want me there alone and gets protective when weird people say weird things to me. He gets me small but enormous things I’d like to have but wouldn’t get for myself, the right wireless mouse, a light for my Kindle, a little thermos for my tea that I can bring upstairs to my office. He takes care of me in ways I never let another soul, except maybe my grandmother, take care of me. He knows what I need when I need it. He seems to love me more the messier I am.
My sister (being family isn’t an automatic entry into your “people” group by the way) gets whatever I decide to give her (and vice versa) because such is the way of our relationship. She lets me complain about some things that only the two of us share, we can discuss Mom or our hair or what we ate last time we went to Houston’s ad nauseum. We love each other’s kids as our own. She calls me “Aya” and only rarely makes fun of how I looked with a perm or wearing shoulder-pad-heavy Benetton rugby. She remembers what I remember. She knows what I know. She regrets not living near me as much as I do not living near her.
I cannot believe I am putting this out there, but I think my dog is my people too. I never had a dog before in my life, and doubt I ever will again. Dog people always annoyed me, but apparently now I am one? Her previous owner was killed in an accident and she needed a new home exactly when I needed her (though I didn’t know I did) and has seen me through two-plus years of massive change, occasional delusion, frequent fear and consistent mess with a constantly-wagging tail and an ability to sometimes leave me alone without ever letting me out of her sight. This dog loves me so purely and consistently I feel guilt – yes, guilt – about it whenever I think about her.
I think of my people who are no longer here, my mom and my grandmother in particular, and ache for them in so many ways. I think of the people who are here on this earth still but who are no longer my people. Parting ways with a friend is one thing, losing one of your people – even if it is time – cuts deep. In some cases, I still feel hurt or sad or upset or angry. I think of the people I wanted so badly to be my people, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or didn’t.
You don’t ever forget your people. Each one played a key role in your life, whether for forever or for a brief time.
My people know I love them, though I likely do not tell them so enough.
They keep me going, they remind me, they call me on my bullshit and they love me, in most cases, way more than I love myself. And that does help me to love myself better, which, at the end of the day, may be our highest and best pursuit among everything else in this wild and crazy life.
And finally I would be remiss if I did not mention those of you who read my stuff and have read this far already. You taught me about the concept of my people before I really understood or saw the whole picture. As a group, you are always open to what I have to say, always sharing your messes and your insides and your pain and joy. You remind me why I do this when being an accountant or street sweeper would likely be a smoother and more sane way to make a living.You tell me to keep going despite rejection or roadblock. You even send me unsolicited emails telling me that I have inspired you. Jesus Christ — I have inspired you?! Wow.
So thank you my people. For what you do for me, and for how you are in this world and with your own people. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Who are your people?