Shakespeare wrote a few times, that life resembles a play being performed on stage. In As You Like It, a monologue begins with,
“All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts,
his acts being seven ages.”
As I go through life, I find this to be extraordinarily true in many regards. One of them pertaining to the people who join us in our own play. There are many cliched ways to say people come in and out of your life.
Some leave, because their own curtain call beckons, taking them to the other side, which we won’t see for a while yet. Some are yanked into the wings. Some storm offstage on their own, with nary an explanation to you. And you must pick up the pieces. The show must go on.
A new act in a new setting might bring a whole motley of new characters. And some you know may transform. Maybe they turn into lovers, or best friends, or maybe they betray you, and break your heart in the end.
In Macbeth, Shakespeare writes another brilliant passage,
“…Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more…”
It’s inexplicable really, to us, why sometimes the players in our lives disappear, and are suddenly missing in the next scene. Maybe we pushed them out ourselves. Or maybe they vanished on their own. And maybe they’re waiting, just offstage, for the right moment to come back.
I have a habit, of losing friends, every few years. Sometimes it’s my fault. Sometimes it’s theirs. And oftentimes, it’s nobody’s fault, just the mysterious machinations of life.
We grow apart, and our character arcs take us in different directions.
We fight, or life contrives conflicts that are beyond our control.
Sometimes, we’re just left to wonder.
But later on, in an act that takes place years later, we can look back and find the patterns. The clues, the foreshadowing, that led up to those changes that seemed so inexplicable. If we’re lucky, those people are still in the wings, waiting for their cue that we need them again. But sometimes, they’ve gone, off to star in another play. And that’s okay.
We change. Our characters develop. That’s how this is supposed to go.
All we can hope is that maybe Shakespeare was wrong. Maybe our plays aren’t just a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Maybe there’s a reason to the chaos. I miss the people who were such central figures to my life’s play, who helped my character grow and navigate the stormy upheavals of my younger years. And maybe we’ll reunite one day, full of wit and wisdom so rare to find in Shakespearean characters (you have to admit, he does enjoy writing fools).
Or maybe our part of the story is done, and that’s okay too.
The curtain rises. The next act is on.