Friendships, I’ve learned, are not forever.
My realization came slowly, after years and seasons and friends faded away. Friends I lived with, traveled with, shared birthdays and New Years and secrets with, are nothing more than memories of what once was.
I was a senior in high school when my acting teacher told us our friendships wouldn’t last. I remember thinking, “But she doesn’t know my friends! We are different! She is wrong!”
She was right.
Some of them lasted longer than others. When I came home during college breaks I would aways catch up with them. We would laugh and reminisce and take pictures and plan on doing it again the next time.
As the years went on the reunions became fewer and far between.
One particular friendship lasted nearly 9 years after high school. At that point you would think it’s the real deal. But I came home for Christmas one year and realized we valued each other differently. I made time for her while she made time for other people.
I was crushed.
Looking back, I noticed the pattern and how I should have seen it coming.
My acting teacher may have been right, but she was also wrong…
Out of all my high school friends, I have two that stuck despite time and distance and everything in between. (One of them went to the same college as me, so that definitely helped.) It’s the kind of friendship where we don’t stay in touch, but we make effort to see each other when we can, aka whenever I come back to Ohio. The three of us got together over dinner this past Christmas and talked for hours.
After high school there was college, where I made a whole new set of BFFFFFs. The first friend I made was Grace. Hope and Grace… it was too good to be true. We were both hyper with brown hair – people got us mixed up all the time and I loved it. At the beginning of our friendship people thought we had been friends for years when in reality it had been just a few weeks.
Those weeks turned into years, and when we were 21 I stood next to her as she married the man of her dreams.
She was my first friend to get married.
I remember driving home after her wedding in my bridesmaid’s dress and bursting into tears because I knew our friendship would never be the same.
She moved to Wisconsin with her husband and started a family. I traveled the world and ended up in Georgia, still single. Our seasons changed, our friendship faded.
We haven’t seen each other in more than 5 years and we rarely, if ever, talk or text. But we still hold high regard for each other. We still refer to each other as “best.” (Our nickname for each other. Clever, I know.)
With this particular friendship, we were actually on the same page with the distance that came between us – neither of us were hanging on more than the other. We accepted where life was taking us and let each other go.
We’ve never verbalized this with each other, so after I typed up this blog I texted her to ask if it was okay to post publicly. Her response?
“Of course I’m good with it! I cherish your friendship and you will always hold a special place in my heart as being my best in college. I do agree too [about our friendship fading.] Unfortunately that happens with friendships. Love you always!”
Not all of my friendships have ended as seamlessly.
Like high school, most of my friendships from college faded as the years went on and life took us in different directions. A couple of them have lasted. We still make effort to see each other when we can, which is usually once a year, twice at best. There usually isn’t much talking in between.
And thus continues the pattern of my friendships.
I used to fall hard and fast into friendship and be certain THIS WAS IT. Best friends for life.
When the for life part didn’t happen I often found myself feeling shocked and betrayed, as if said friend broke up with me and didn’t even tell me. Did our matching bracelets mean nothing??
That’s the thing about friendships – there’s nothing that really defines the relationship. With family, you have blood. With marriage, you have covenant. With dating, you talk about whether or not you’re on the same page and if you’re not, you break up. Both parties understand what just happened.
With friendship, it either lasts or it doesn’t and you don’t really know which one it’s going to be until it happens. The lack of clarity can be confusing, frustrating, and hurtful at times (especially when you realize you were the one hanging on.)
In the past when a friendship ended, I usually took it to mean our relationship had never been real. If it couldn’t stand the test of time or distance, clearly it had been a fraud.
I also used to think it was the other person’s fault when our friendship ended. They got married. They moved away. They had kids. They stopped calling or emailing or texting.
But then I realized often times it was just as much my fault. I had a career. I traveled. I had other friends. I stopped calling or emailing or texting.
Beyond that, I realized it’s not as much anyone’s fault as it is LIFE HAPPENS. People travel, people move. People get married and have babies. People’s interests change.
I know some people still have really close friend groups from high school and/or college (or other seasons of life), and that’s awesome. My story is just a little different.
Over the years, there are two truths I have learned about friendships:
- Most of them are for only a season.
- They are still genuine even if they’re only for a season.
As Jonathan Safran Foer once wrote, “So many people enter and leave your life! Hundreds of thousands of people! You have to keep the door open so they can come in, but it also means you have to let them go.”
I’ve learned to not be the person who is left hanging on and then crushed when it’s over; I’ve learned to let people go. It’s still hard. It still hurts. But I feel less like a victim and more like someone who understands and celebrates the seasons of life. I am grateful for the time I had.
Friendship is a mystery – you don’t know which ones will make it through the changing seasons.
I’m often surprised by the ones that stick.
Right now I have a handful of friendships that are in transition because of life circumstances. They may last, they may not. I will grieve if they end, but I will understand.
I also have a few new friendships that are blossoming.
And thus continues the pattern of my friendships.