9.02.2009

You've Got a Friend In Me

I now have an interesting view on friendship.

I remember sitting with one of my best girlfriends in high school, talking about what our lives would be like in the future. We saw ourselves as cranky old women, rocking on a porch and yelling at the little kids who ran across our lawns. We imagined we'd be friends forever. It wasn't until later in my life that I realized that I don't think I'm capable of being friends with someone forever.

That sounds terribly negative; I know. It's not a conclusion I was excited to arrive at, but after years of self-analysis and several friendships that I thought "failed," I was forced to conclude that I'm not a serial friendshipper.

There are some people who still have all of their friends from school: elementary, middle school, high school, or college, it doesn't matter. They have met and forged bonds with others that can stand the test of time. Their relationships can weather the storms of change that blow through our lives. No matter where they are in life, they can still touch base with these friends and revert right back into the affinity they had in school. I used to admire these people. I used to be jealous because I don't really have friends like this. Yes, I still have friends from my school days, and yes, we still get along wonderfully, but there's always an element of awkwardness when I get back together with them...awkwardness that comes from time apart and lives going in different directions. Whenever I met up with old school buddies I always left feeling like a failure because I didn't instantly rekindle the closeness I once felt with these friends. I couldn't figure out what my problem was.

Finally, it came to me: what if the close friendships I developed in high school/college were only meant to stay close in those contexts? Most, if not all, of my friendships have been founded on codependence. There existed specific needs on both sides of the relationship that the other person filled. Outside of high school or college, those needs disappeared, and so did our reliance on one another. That doesn't necessarily mean that the friendships died; the function of them simply changed. We didn't need to be so emotionally close to one another anymore. Sometimes, we simply found someone else to fill our needs. For example, the friend I generally regard as my best friend from my college days and I both got married. Our marital relationships are fulfilling, so the need for our emotional connection became obsolete. We are still friends, but the nature of our friendship has changed.

At the same time I came to this understanding, I made a (somewhat) contradictory discovery: I AM capable of maintaining lifelong friendships. As I've gotten older, gotten married, and acquired more siblings, I realized that I have a built-in network of friends who will always be a part of my life. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that my family relationships will last forever. No matter what paths our lives take, we have an ironclad connection that always keeps our relationship in context: family ties. I know it's cliche to say, but my husband, my parents, my siblings, my in-laws, MY FAMILY are my best friends, and they will stay my best friends for eternity.

It's like a weight has been lifted from off my shoulders. I no longer feel bad about not "keeping in touch" better with high school friends or college friends. Yes, they had a significant effect on my life at one time, I still love them for it, and they're still my friends, but they're not my "best" friends anymore. We don't need each other anymore, and it would be ludicrous to try and regain the closeness we had in school, akin to forcing two non-connecting puzzle pieces to fit together. Instead of wishing for the past, I'm looking toward the future, anticipating the variety of friends I will make and cherishing my forever friends: my family.

To all of my friends in all stages of my life so far, no matter how close or distant of friends we were: THANK YOU. You have changed me for the better, and I hope I've done some good in your lives as well.

7 comments:

Brad and Hailey said...

Wow, I really appreciate that insight! I too do not carry my friends along with me very well at all. I have on friend from elementry school, one from Junior High, one from High School and one from college that I considered my "Best friend." To this day we still talk, but are not as close as we used to be in any way.

I think in general it's hard for me to make strong friendships ... the one's that are almost exclusive ... the "best friends." Maybe that is why my husband's family is so large and I am blessed with so many sister in laws. When I finally stopped comparing myself to them,I realized just how much fun I have with them and they (along with my already close relationship with my family) have become my close friends ... eternal friends as you pointed out :)

Natalie Sadler said...

I can really understand where you're coming from. Rather than describe current circumstances, just go over what you wrote.

I have a hard time with friendships. If I see someone, I'll still say hi to them; however, it's not like I hang out with friends on the weeked--I hang with my family. And the awkwardness is understandable, too. I think it's like, "Whoa, I haven't seen you in x years, and I wonder how you've changed," and, "Whoa, you haven't cared to keep in touch with me, and I not you, so are we still even considered 'friends?'"

Even "best friends"--I haven't really thought about in a while. Same thing with Jay--it used to really bother me that he didn't go play with friends sometimes or get together with the band and play or what. But he always told me, "I should, but I'd rather spend time with my family."

I like to think we're still friends. I really should be better about contacting you but . . . you know how life is. School/work + family = busy. I hope to be able to spend more time with you in the future!

Rachelle said...

right on, i feel you

Jessica said...

Hailey: I was the same way with my sisters-in-law. Once I got over comparing myself to them, I was able to see how much fun they really are!

Natalie: We are totally still friends! My point was that we were
really close in college, and now that we're married and happy, we don't need to have the same kind of relationship that we did then. Our relationship has EVOLVED. It's not better or worse, just different. And staying in contact goes both ways; I need to be better about talking to you too. But, like you said, life happens, and we're both busy. I don't want you to think that my feelers are hurt or anything like that, because they're really not.

Devri said...

Last August (as in a year ago), Nat came to visit. It was the first time since Freshman year that she'd spent any time with Brian. After Brian left, she mentioned that he talked a lot about Freshman year, and she just wanted to forget about most of the things from Freshman year. We talked about how when friends meet after an extended period of time, they always revert to the memories they had in common, but if they can't move past those memories into new ones, the friendship will be awkward and stagnant. The friendships that last through the years are those that adapt to changing circumstances.

When I came back from my mission, my girlfriends had all moved on. I ended up hanging out with "the boys" and their extensions. At first, it was awkward because all we had were Freshman year memories. Things are better now because we've been able to establish new ones.

Family is awesome, but these friendships also have to be worked on and adapted. Sometimes I want my relationships with my two closest siblings to be like they were, but things have changed. We've all married and have stronger loyalties elsewhere. So, we have to find new common ground, not just relying on memories from our childhood, although that is always fun.

I'm horrible at keeping track of friends. (When was the last time we actually talked face to face?). I take comfort in knowing that I will see the friends I've made through the years in eternity someday, even if I lose touch with them in this life.

I could go on and on, but I should stop. Don't give up on your old friends completely. I've learned recently that sometimes, a girl just needs a girl friend around.

Jessica said...

Devri: In no way am I advocating letting go of old friends. I completely agree that in order for friendships to stand the test of time they need to adapt to changing circumstances. My observation of MYSELF was that I'm really bad at doing it. This post was really about me accepting how horrible I am with keeping friends and putting a positive spin on it. :)

And yes, you're right, family relationships take work as well. It's been my experience that it's just EASIER to maintain my relationships with family members, even those who haven't been my family members for very long (like my siblings' spouses, for example). Even though our lives move in different directions, I always feel connected to all of them.

*cue nostalgic music*

I think it's because with my family, I never have to be anyone but myself. I never have to worry about them accepting me because they already know all about me. It's easier to maintain my relationships with them because no matter where I go in life and no matter how I change, I know they'll always accept and love me.

Kari World Conqueror said...

I was randomly searching blogspot for people I know and found your page. I just wanted to tell you thank you for this post. It made me think about a lot of things. :)

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