With my best friend’s birthday just happening this week, I’ve been thinking about friendship and how it changes over the years.
What do I mean by that? I mean that sometimes friends leave you, sometimes you leave your friends, and sometimes you are still friends but everything is both different and the same at the same time (how is that possible?)
For example, this year I’ve had several friends leave me. I’ve had a friend pass away from cancer – a devastating event. I had a friend leave me probably because it was hard for her to be with me – I remind her of painful memories. And I had another friend who left because of a lack of communication that led to unresolved conflicts and built up resentment. All of this is sad, and I would love to say that somehow we made it through but the truth is that we didn’t.
What are some things I’ve realized about friendship over the years? The first realization is that friends don’t always talk or see each other. This may not be a surprise for some of you, but for me it was difficult to comprehend because I am super extroverted. I didn’t understand why my best friends wouldn’t want to message each other daily or hang out every weekend. I felt lonely, as if we weren’t as close as before. It took me awhile to understand that everybody needs some alone time. Most people need more than me and I had to respect that.
The second realization was when everyone started to get busy and I felt a disappointment in my expectations. I was busy too, but sometimes it felt like I made more effort to see my friends than they did. I would transit 2 hours by myself just to go for a catch-up dinner, but I wouldn’t be as confident to say they would do the same for me. I now admit that not everybody will make time for me or they’ll do other things for me and it doesn’t mean they don’t care about me.
The third realization is about letting go. In my world, everything can be fixed if you talk about it. Not everybody is a mind reader and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know what they’re doing is upsetting you, so if you talk about it, you’ll be able to understand and say or do things differently. Some people disagree and think it’s not genuine this way, that “trying” to make it work means it’s not working. And some people I think have already let go of you, so they are not interested in talking or working out anything.
That is probably the most difficult realization for me – not everyone wants to be my friend forever. That sounds kinda stupid, but if you put a lot of time into building your relationships with others, it’s sad to see it fall apart. Sometimes it’s no one’s fault.
I know I’m not the perfect friend and no one can be there for you all the time. I know friends and even lovers will disappoint each other, anger each other, make each other cry, but I do still believe that if you want things to work with someone, you will find a way to understand each other and I am willing to do the work for anyone who is willing to do the same for me. All relationships require some kind of work, whether it feels like work or not.
I have some amazing friends who have been with me for 14 years or more. I have some not-so-close friends surprise me. I have friends with all sorts of issues of their own, but when I meet up with them and they tell me stuff like, “You seem so happy now, I am happy for you”.
It makes me realize that there are more people who care about you than you’d think. There are friends who worry but don’t know what to say, friends who want to help but don’t know how to, friends who think about you and care about you.
Yes, friends change over time because people change. Situations change too and your friendships may not be operating in the same ways anymore, but I argue that the very essence of your friendship remains the same. It’s not always about having the same interests or living close by. You are friends because you brighten up each other’s life, whether that be being able to make each other laugh or relax, or sharing pain together.
You are friends because you care about each other, and even if you are no longer friends, it doesn’t mean you no longer care about them either. It doesn’t mean your happy memories in the past don’t mean anything. They were all a part of building the you of today.
I thank everyone who has been a part of my life so far, whether they are still in it or not. If you have been my friend before, then I hope you letting go of me has also given you even more happiness than you’ve given me.