Yeah I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Unless you’re twelve, of course, and haven’t figured out that the friends you’ve got now are friends of proximity who, in twenty years, will be people you once knew, whose names and faces you barely remember. If you are twelve, or you think that your grade school friends will be with you forever, let me let you in on a fact of life: Unless you and your childhood friends never change, never grow, never really mature, you probably won’t have anything in common with them by the time you hit thirty.
There are always exceptions. You might be fortunate and find a lifelong friend who shares enough with you that no matter how you both change there’s still a strong bond between you. I don’t really have any friends left from those days. My oldest “friend” stays in contact rather peripherally, but I find that whenever we have even a ten minute conversation she annoys the piss out of me. It’s not so much that we’re different people now, and don’t really have anything in common. She’s been married and divorced, raised a child, and turned to Jesus. I’ve done none of those things. I respect them all, but don’t share them. Alas, I get the feeling through both subtle and not-so-subtle hints that she doesn’t respect my choices. I once had occasion to say to her (during a conversation about why she didn’t let the kids in her class read the Harry Potter books because they were about witchcraft) that I didn’t see that reading had harmed either of us. Her response? ”You read more than I did.” I’m really trying hard not to take that as a cut; either way I was amused by it, which pretty much means that I don’t care what she thinks.
But more than that, it’s the you’re-not-a-good-friend messages I get from her that annoy me and make me dig in my heels. Last time I ran into her, in an effort to be friendly, I said, “You should stop over some day.” Her response was along the lines of: I will when you’re ready to call and invite me. Okayfine.
Yeah, they’re nuts, too.
Maybe I am a bad friend. Or maybe I just know that if we were in the same room, there’d be nothing to talk about but the past, and I’m WAY over that. I’ve never been to a high school reunion. When asked why I explain that if I could think of ONE person I would see there who I 1) wanted to see and 2) couldn’t see any other time, I’d go in a hot minute. Couldn’t think of one. I have one friend left from high school. I actually count her as my oldest friend. The others are all acquaintances now. People I used to know before I became me.
Fandom and the internet has opened up a whole new arena for friendships. Meeting people long distance allows you to get to know their minds before anything else, and while I used to think this was terrific, amazing, a way to get to know the real person without a lot of baggage, now I have to confess that it’s not as great as it sounds. The thing is, you can get on with someone like crazy online, but if you end up in the same room, sometimes there’s just nothing. Dead air.
Then there are people you don’t get on really well with long distance, but in person? Man it just sparks, it’s exciting, you have tons to talk about and you just love being together. The thing is you just never know how it’s going to play out until you give it a chance. Or in other words, some people are better at a distance or in very small doses.
Friendship is probably as much chemistry as romantic love is, and there’s simply no accounting for why it works with some people and not with others. Yeah you have to have things in common, but there has to be some sort of spark, some sense that the two of you are more fun together than you are individually. You have to trust that a friend, whether long-distance or in-person, will make you laugh, offer sympathy when you cry, and that you’ll usually have something interesting to say to one another. Not always, sometimes a friend is someone you can be silent with and it’s not icky or uncomfortable.
A friend is someone who you can be apart from for months or years and when you get together with them again, it’s like no time has passed. I’m blessed with friends like that, both near and far. So while I do think friendship is an odd thing, I think it’s a wonderful thing, too. Everybody needs friends. If you don’t have them you end up being the guy who shoots people from the clock tower. The one who “keeps to himself.”
Don’t keep to yourself.