I have always been a people person. While I cherish my alone time and am happy to amuse myself and relax, I usually thrive in an environment that requires me to meet new people, ask questions, and get personal. Perhaps that’s why being a writer was always top of mind for me; I recognized early on that everyone has a story to tell. Choosing journalism in college was a no brainer: it gave me a chance to pound the pavement and then write about what I learned.
After spending several months now with only my parents and dogs as company, I’ve done a lot of thinking about friendships. I left behind many close friends and many more acquaintances in DC, and have yet to make new friends here in California, although I’m highly anticipating meeting people as soon as I make my next move.
In the fourth months since I’ve left, I’ve heard from some friends quite frequently, through texts, emails, online chat, or even handwritten letters (my favorite!). Other people that I thought would be in touch, I haven’t heard from at all, and it’s disappointing, and truthfully, hurtful. And then there are others still that have surprised me by checking in with me, and giving me updates on their lives – people I wouldn’t have thought to hear from.
With change in location and plans always comes change in friendships. Some are to be expected, some are disappointing, and some are refreshing. But more than just accepting that friendships come and go, is accepting the substance of those relationships, and coming to terms with the fact that some of them are surface, fleeting, or specific. I read a blog post this morning about how with the evolution of digital networking, our “friendships” may seem to be deep and wide, but in fact, so many of our connections aren’t really connections at all – they are just people we met once, or perhaps even if we spent more significant time with them, they held a specific purpose in our life at that moment: they were the friend of a friend that was always at brunch or happy hour, or the former coworker that you were friendly with, but no longer see since you left the organization.
And then, what about all of those close friends that you spent hours with, over wine or beer, at celebrations and summer outings…what of them? It suddenly hits me that I don’t really know anything about these people, and nor do they know anything about me. Sure, I may know what they do for a living or that they play kickball on the weekends, and they may know what I do for a living and that I really like Corgis, but not much more. It hits me that one of the reasons I was ready to escape DC is that so many hours were spent talking about stuff that doesn’t matter, and a lot of it was negative. Commiserating about work. Gossiping about friends. Idle chatter about stuff happening in the city. It was like this giant juggling act of getting together with people because that’s what’s expected of us, when much of the time, we didn’t even really want to do it. I can barely count all 10 fingers as I think about the friends that I had real, deep conversations with – about books we read, and how our families and history have made us who we are, what our dreams are and where we’re going, our deep-seated fears and our moments of pure happiness and accomplishment.
Some of what I’m saying may piss people off, people that I hung out with. And that’s okay. I’ll say first that I’m grateful for all of my friends, no matter how close we were or weren’t – because life is full of all kinds of friendships, and some are deeper than others. But more than ever, as I spend week after week figuring out what I want to do with my life and figuring out what’s really, truly important to me, I’m not afraid to shed some layers I don’t need, and I’m not ashamed of expecting my friends to be the best they can be – authentic, caring, supportive, adventurous, and true – to me, and to themselves. Friendship isn’t about judging, and it’s not about trying to fix someone else’s problems. It’s not selfish, and it’s not about convenience. So I’m going to do my best to be the friend that I would want to have, and not focus on the relationships that give me more heartache than joy.
There is so much more to life and to friendships than to talk about work and people on Twitter day in and day out – because there is so much more to each of us as individuals, and we all deserve a chance to really be ourselves in front of our friends.
The dreams keep coming. In them, people from my past filter through modern scenes – high school classmates, estranged family members, ex-boyfriends. Some meetings are awkward, some are familiar and comforting, some are wishful thinking. But almost every night for the last week, visions of my previous life have visited my dreams, making my days full of reflection and curiosity.
It’s not the first time this has happened, but why so much all at once? I suppose it’s fitting in this sabbatical I’ve been on for the last three months and counting. It fits right in with my only somewhat newly rekindled relationship with my grandparents that I hadn’t regularly spoken to or seen in more than 10 years. Or emails I’ve received from other relationships gone dry for various reasons throughout time. Or maybe because like they say, the past can be the key to your future?
For me, my past and the memories that go with it have always been a huge part of who I am. I review old diary entries, pull out photo albums again and again, and read letters and cards from loved ones that I first received years ago. A lot of what’s in my past, and who is in my past, have led to decisions I’ve made as an adult – some good, some bad. I’ve let my past run me over, and I’ve let my past remind me of what could be different in my present and my future. And like many others, I sometimes revisit my past when I shouldn’t, even though I know it will hurt me, again.
But more and more these days, I’m realizing that there’s a way to get closure with your past that doesn’t have to involve tears or fights or disappointment. And again, maybe because of this transition phase I’ve been in, I’ve given a lot more thought to who and what from my past I want to include in my life moving forward. Even if I decide that someone doesn’t necessarily need to play a role like they once did, I’ve found ways to acknowledge them and their impact on my life in a way that provides meaning to me, and makes me feel good about it, and I think and hope, for them.
But just because people appear in my dreams, doesn’t mean I’m compelled to reach out to them and reconnect. Sometimes, it just means I’m thinking about them and wish them well, or I am remembering happier times. And I know that as I continue to take the next steps in this journey I’m on, wherever I go, whatever I do, there will be even more people that are in my present life now that will end up in my past. That part I’m still a little worried about, because even now, it’s tough dealing with a loss of connection with friends I just left behind in DC a few months ago. But that’s what comes with moving and life changes of course. Perhaps they’ll be appearing in my dreams in the year to come.
At the beginning of the year, I gave a toast to love in 2013. Love of family, of friends, of my career, of me, and, not to be left out, romantic love. Halfway through the year, I’m drowning in love, overwhelmed in all directions by it. Some of it has been tough love, some of it deliriously happy, some of it sweet, and a lot of it confusing. My parents, my friends, and my colleagues have all played a big role in supporting me and loving me, and for that, I thank you.
When I began the year, I knew some changes would be coming in my life, but I wasn’t quite sure how it would play out. I knew I would be leaving DC, but I didn’t know when. I knew I would be changing career paths, but I wasn’t sure how. I knew I would be leaving friends and making new ones, and that was both sad and exciting. What I definitely wasn’t sure of though, was where the romance would come in. I felt I had hit a roadblock in that department, and my impending move made it even more of a challenge. It didn’t seem to make sense to try to date in DC at that point, but it would be perhaps months before I was settled into a new area and meeting new people. I was pretty sure that my romantic life would just be dormant for awhile, and that the love in my life would be filled in other ways.
But life has a funny way of throwing curveballs when you don’t expect it. Spring was wedding season for me, and right in the middle of celebrating the nuptials of a close friend, a chance connection with someone I didn’t even see coming bloomed, and suddenly, I was like, now what?!
All the reasons not to start a relationship with someone when I was moving across the country in two months stared me in the face: it would be hard, time was short, I didn’t want to do long distance again, we just met, I have no idea what I’m doing in a few months, etc. But there was no denying that we enjoyed spending time together and felt an intense connection that we wanted to keep going, even if it may end just a few months later. We weren’t the same people we had been a few years ago in our previous relationships, and as adults, we decided to just go with it and see where life and love took us for the ride.
Two months go by quickly, especially when you’re in love. It had been more than three years since I had felt loved in that way, or loved back. It was happy, it was simple, it was tender, it was comfortable, it was without drama or egos, and it was exactly what we wanted and needed. It caught me off guard at first, to be treated the way he treated me, with such affection and consideration. It wasn’t flowers and fancy dinners and adventures, but it was words and touch, and all heart. Not everyone gets to experience that – no matter how old you are.
The days inched closer to me leaving and I stressed about what to do. Should we give it a shot and see what happens? Should we end it and say we had a great time? In the end, we said “see you later” instead of goodbye and decided to try it out, even if for a few months, until we could check in and figure out next steps together. We talked, we texted, we wrote, we missed each other.
And again, life does what it will.
After a month apart, the magic had begun to fade, as had our feelings, and the distance had started to do its damage. No amount of communications or respect for each other can beat out what our hearts tell us, no matter how much we try. It’s not about rights or wrongs, or one person or the other. Sometimes, it’s simply time, distance, circumstances, and where we are in life that shapes our decisions and our feelings. And as adults who cared (and still do) very deeply for each other, we knew that it wasn’t working, as much as we didn’t want to admit it.
Who is to say that it would have worked if I hadn’t moved? Or if we had met earlier and had more time together as a couple? It may not have, or it may have, but we can’t dwell on the what ifs. What we can cherish and remember is the time we did have together, and what life will bring us in the future, whatever that may be. I don’t regret for a single second that I was able to experience love again, even if for just a short time. I don’t regret meeting someone that made me very happy in a time of transition, in a time of anxiety, a time when I was leaving so many things and people I loved behind and trusting myself to a new adventure and a lot of unknowns.
We can’t know where our hearts will lead us – sometimes it’s across the country or the world, sometimes it’s to different people than we imagined. I’m not a strong believer in fate or destiny, but I do believe that people come across our path for a reason, and their time may be long or short, but their impact may last forever. That’s how I feel about this experience.
So, with much in store this year, here’s to more love, from wherever it may come. And thank you, for loving me, and giving me the chance to love again.
They say that love may come and go, but friends are forever. They say that you can’t choose your family but you choose your friends. They say that friends are for life… but are they? More and more it seems like not.
I moved three times by the time I had started seventh grade. Each time, I though I would have trouble making new friends; each time, it worked out. In seventh grade at my new school, I met a girl at the lunch table that would become my best friend — we said we would be each other’s maids of honor, our kids’ godparents. After 13 years of friendship, we had a falling out over an email two years ago and we haven’t talked to each other since. So much for best friends forever. On the other hand, another friend I met in English class in seventh grade is still my friend, 15 years later, and I can see it continuing for many many more years. I haven’t talked to my freshman year roommate in several years but was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding that lived across the hall from me sophomore year. Five of us girls from my first job in DC became close friends and attended weddings and showers and parties together, and although two of the girls have moved to different cities, and one is now in another country temporarily, we all email each other updates on our lives every few months. A friend I met at my second job moved across the country, but I text with her nearly every week. Yet I almost never hear from another friend I had been close to at the same job.
Recently, The New York Times ran a piece on the challenges of making new friends over a certain age. Although it focuses on people in their 30s and 40s with families, I think those of us in our mid and late 20s struggle with this, too. We also have what the author calls K.O.F.’s — Kind of Friends. There’s the friend you see at happy hours and you catch up with but don’t talk to otherwise. I have friends I met on vacations, some of whom I have seen again, some of whom I haven’t heard from since. There are the college friends that live in my city that I get brunch with once a year and that’s it. I have work friends who know a lot about my personal life and others that don’t know anything about who I really am, and I know little of them. I have friends I was close to for a few months and then our relationship fizzled away, not because anything bad happened, but because of life, and differing interests, and because plainly put, just as in dating, sometimes we’re just not that into each other.