What Do Chance Encounters of the Past Bring Up for You?

Growing up on the East Coast, I made the decision to move out to California over 4 years ago. I don’t always get to see friends from back home, but this past week I’ve been having a string of blasts-from-the-past type encounters. An old friend and I recently reconnected and made plans to meet up in LA at the Santa Monica farmer’s market. There, we literally bumped into another mutual high school classmate that we hadn’t seen in over 12 years. How us three NJ girls all ended up at that same farmer’s market all across the country on the same day was shocking.

The other time warp that happened this week was at The Lumineers concert at the Hollywood Bowl. As I was standing on the ridiculously long concessions line, waiting for an overpriced drink, I spotted an old college buddy who I had also studied abroad with in France (also almost 10 years ago). I called out his name and he looked like he’d seen a ghost. We were friendly but not close friends and after a few pleasantries, he threw out that we should grab coffee sometime.

I said ok, but wasn’t sure I’d follow up on that. A part of me didn’t see the point in that since we weren’t that close to begin with, though another part of me was curious. However, the biggest part of me, I admit, was a bit scared. There’s something about running into an old friend that’s known you and seen you in a different time in your life, that knows a small part of your history. You might make small talk about life, but you’re actually thinking, “God, what were we like back then? Am I the same person now? Are they the same person?” A flood of memories of your old self suddenly rushes into this new part of your life.

I was watching “Before Sunset” the other night, one of my favorite films by Richard Linklater, in which one of the characters says, “Memory is a beautiful thing if you don’t have to deal with the past.” Your past is full of happy and painful memories, which all can be triggered with a short melody, an old photograph or nostalgic thought once in a while.  Most memories, however, lie dormant in you, until one day they’re suddenly staring you in the face at the farmer’s market or the Hollywood bowl.

Sometimes memories can be great things just by themselves, left untouched in the past. But then again, all of our past experiences are the building blocks to our present selves. If we don’t have those old friends to remind us of who we were then – how do we know how far we’ve come to who we are now? With that in mind, I have made plans to catch up with my old classmate and memories outside of the Hollywood bowl concessions’ line.

What are your thoughts on random encounters with past acquaintances?