Derin and I met on Wall Street in our 20s when we were working for a British investment bank assisting traders. The head trader of our department collected people with strange, unrelated backgrounds. I studied fine arts in college, and Derin was an actor. For the two years we worked there, our friendship was intense. We worked all day side by side and played after work, often shooting pool. Even when we were home, we played virtual pool remotely through a modem. (Yes, such a game existed in the mid-90s. It was 3D too.) It was as if we were operating as one person.
Derin became a trader and left to work for another bank. I left Wall Street and became a designer. We hit the pause button, to continue at some point in the future, because we had something else to attend to. He eventually left Wall Street too and moved to Europe. We didn’t keep in touch. Now, after more than two decades, we suddenly hit the play button again. At this Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn, we compared notes about what has happened since.
I didn’t know this then, but in our 20s, we were ambitious in different ways. It’s a type of observation you can make in your mid-life. Derin may not agree, but I think the crux of the difference is this: Derin is ambitious even though he doesn’t want to be. I’m not ambitious even though I want to be. To put it another way: Derin’s heart drives him to be ambitious regardless of what his head thinks, so much so that his head doesn’t understand why he needs to be so successful. My situation is the opposite. My head is ambitious even though my heart is not, so my head doesn’t understand why I’m not successful. The lesson here is that whatever your head desires is no match for what your heart drives you to do.
Tipsy from my Mexican cocktail, I get this strange feeling of time-traveling. The difference between friendship and love is that in the former, there is no emotional attachment. I have other friends like Derin from whom I could be apart for years without so much as a text, even though I feel like I’ve seen their soul. Perhaps friendship has a final destination beyond which we have nothing more to prove to each other.