I have a sister who is close to friends she has known for 15 – 20 years. I mean, ‘still-tight’ kind of close. There’s nothing special there though, many lucky people have been able to keep childhood friendships so tight and real through the shifting seasons of their lives. Sadly, this has not been the case for me. There are people I knew from secondary school who I rode and bled with, but who feel like ghosts from a distant past right now. How does this happen? How do we go from one thing to the other?
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m pinning away somewhere regretting the past. After all, there is that proverb that says ’Twenty friends cannot play together for twenty years.’ At the risk of sounding like a parasite feeding off people, my friends are much like vitamins moving through various needs of my body. Sometimes I’m low on calcium, other times on iron. In this sense I have been fortunate enough to have doors of relationships open to me at the precise time I need them.
What I am trying to say is: I have many former close friends whom I no longer close to. Yet, there is not a single close relationship from my past that I regret. Everyone has shaped me somehow, held me up, loved me, allowed me to love them, etc. And still, somehow the friendships sort of reach an expiry date. No quarrel, no friendship breakup as it were, just life simply happening in its very demanding way.
For a long time, I thought this was something to feel bad about. Especially for the friendships where I felt we were growing apart. It usually starts very simply; you no longer enjoy the same things. The texts you’d both laugh about becomes offensive to the other. Your dreams are stretched out, away from each other. Opportunities come with demands and distractions. Sometimes it’s even a romantic relationship. All of a sudden, you are in a conversation and you find yourself struggling, suddenly aware that things are not quite as easy or as smooth as they once were.
Wait. I’m not saying once you hit a rough communication path you should just pack up and leave. I know friendship is not always about laughter and bants. But what I mean is that sometimes, one party can outgrow the other. In fact, as humans, we are constantly outgrowing ourselves, shedding the thoughts and ideas we once had. The risk is that people who met us in our former ways will find the change a bit conflicting. In this sense, one of the secrets to maintaining any kind of synergy in any kind of relationship is to remain at the same wavelength. It could mean growing towards your friend or staying at the familiar level.
Friendship breakups hurt. Many of us like the promise of familiarity. We want those friends that knew us long before our breasts sprouted out, before we became creatures who liked boys. But friendship is not always straight-line. Sometimes it zig zags. You can be close in a season, draw apart and then find your way back to each other. Sometimes you never get close again, and guess what? That’s okay too. As long as you are not toxic, as long as you stay open and tender, as long as you give yourself to the watering of your relationships, your friendships will flower.
At the end of the day, what matters is the impact we make in the moment. The memories we share. The people we impact with our love and service. It’s okay to miss your former friends, to miss how being in a ‘group’ made you feel. But hey, look around at all the people in your life. You can create new memories. Better memories. And if that is still work in progress, you can cherish the memories you had.