- As we change, so do our friendships. Friendships are not just given, they must be earned and they must be invested in. They are delicate and at times they can either bloom or wither. They don’t bloom without being watered by compassion, understanding, care and laughs.
With this being said, not all friendships can be salvaged. People enter our lives, people exit our lives; such a change is inevitable. People grow, people change and we have to let this happen. Our priorities change, we become busier, sometimes wiser and hopefully clever enough to sometimes see what no longer fits in our lives.
Recently I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with an old friend, who back in high school was my best friend. We knew each other’s secrets and hopes, invented our own vocabulary and we were inseparable. Fast-forward to the first year of post-high school realities of university and jobs and shifting priorities and our friendship slowly changed. Yet what dramatically changed and eventually ended our friendship was my disapproval of her first boyfriend. As she distanced from me, she attached more to him. Although I may have wanted to shake her up, I let her live her own life and make her own decisions. Five years later, she is married to him, has a child with him and has converted to his faith.
As I spoke to her recently via a social networking site, I was saddened to discover that the friend I missed and loved was no longer there. I tried futilely to cling onto a memory of her and us and revive that bygone innocence of youth. We weren’t the same girls who lusted over Josh Hartnett and idealistically planned our futures. In fact, after a few chats, I realised the polar opposites we had become. We could never start afresh as adult friends and go to the movies or grab a coffee because of her changing priorities and newfound religious conservatism. I grew critical of her radical religious transformation and her smug satisfaction of merely being a wife and mother. I could similarly imagine her being critical of me being unwed (although I’ve been in a long-term relationship) as well as judgement over my vacuous hopes to write professionally whilst teaching.
Although I may not approve of all her choices and she may not approve of or admire mine, I will continue to care for her and wish her only happiness. With that being said, her version of happiness may no longer be my idea of happiness – and that’s fine. While I may wish her a happy birthday and send her periodical greetings, I will accept that some things cannot be resurrected and accept that. Some people and relationships end and we have to accept that; that doesn’t mean all relationships have to end. If we are very lucky, we will be graced with lifelong friendships which need to be sustained with love and nurturing.
Yet sometimes, even when the love and care are there, friendships end and we have to let go. We drift and grow and in the process, we gain and lose people, which is a part of life. The friends you have in your mid-20s are often not the friends you had in your teens and if they are, the dynamics are bound to be different. You don’t incessantly talk on the phone for three hours a night; you no longer find excitement in the little things like a party. Instead, you opt for a quiet dinner with your friend and the comfort of flat shoes.
To quote Deborah Reber in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, “Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” You can’t force people to stay, whether they are friends or lovers. In addition, you can’t force them to fit a mould of what you imagine a friend or lover to be like. What you can do is be the best version of yourself and not define yourself through interactions of the past, present or even the future.