In my life, I have had many friends. People whom I’ve picked up along he way as I jumped from group to group. Place to place. Fellow outcasts and weirdos, eventually forming into a large ragtag bunch of goofballs that I am honored to call my friends. I don’t let people in easily. So when I do, I’ll do absolutely anything to not let them go. For better or for worse.
Seeing old friends is always an emotional experience. It’s bittersweet. Bitter because…well, life has moved on. Your lives have adjusted to the other person’s absence and neither person is the same as they used to be. There’s no getting back the easy connection that was once there. “You can never return home” and all that. If it’s awkward, that’s just sad because what was once a beautiful friendship has grown stale and faded. If it’s natural and fun, it’s sad because you’re no longer on the same path.
But at the same time, there is a sweetness to it. Catching up, knowing you all still feel a fondness towards one another, and spending time with the people who once (and most likely still do) matter to you is a wonderful thing. It’s nice and it’s a sign of deep friendship. For a short time it’s a reminder to happier and simpler times. And perhaps hope for the future.
But, most of all, seeing old friends is a catalyst for personal reflection. It’s impossible to see old friends and not realize how much your life (and theirs) has changed. How much your perspectives and beliefs have changed. How much you have changed. I always feel a little touched (and a little guilty) when old friends remember details about me. The details fade easily and quickly for me. After a couple of years, all I can remember was whether I genuinely liked a person or not. The rest is a blur. It’s a reminder that, once upon a time, we were friends. Once upon a time, they did know me. And now they feel like strangers. Now, worst of all, you feel like a stranger.
Growing apart is natural. It’s a fact of life. Sometimes it happens and it sucks. Time changes things. Distance changes things. It gets harder the older you get. Sometimes it’s just not meant to last. And that’s okay! Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a true honest friendship or that it wasn’t important. Oftentimes we’re led to believe that any kind of relationship ending is a tragic event caused by animosity or negligence. But sometimes it’s just…the way life is.
Today I met up with two close friends from high school. Two friends I cared a lot about at the time and I still care a lot about today. I put every effort into not letting them go. Loyalty runs deep. But things have felt “off” for awhile now. Everyone has changed so much and it feels like we’re hanging onto versions of ourselves that no longer exist. I enjoyed seeing my friends, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were strangers. With myself being the most unrecognizable among us. It all feels like a lifetime ago. Like it happened to somebody else.
This is not goodbye. Like the summer camp, I got an extended life here. Some time to see my friends off and spend a little more time with them. To know that they’re doing well and on their way to better things. I love my friends. But sometimes the healthiest thing to do is to let them go.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”-Dr. Seuss