Friendship, as Aristotle suggests, is the most immediate form of public personhood; it motivates a person for moral excellence, ennobles us to become a stronger unit for a social whole. And yet, the thing is this: the very material of friendship is the exchange of it. In friendship, sentiment is the relationship. Friendship may have a public aspect, but it is essentially a private exchange.
It is an inevitable fact that life takes people in new directions; growing apart from old friends becomes a part of our lives. There are a million reasons why a friendship may change over time. You grow older, relocate for a job, have a fight, or start having kids. But, somehow I thought that I was immune, that this was someone else’s story, that my friends would be there with me forever.
There was a new view that I could adopt in order to make sense of the changes and loss I experienced in seeing my old friendships fade. Instead, real life happened. Time and space let me grow apart from some former friends and while I forged some new friendships here or there, mostly I found myself spending a lot of time alone, wondering when I was going to find my circle, the group of people to which I would belong and instantly know it.
As it turns out, my lack of friendships wasn’t that I wasn’t making a sincere effort. It’s just that my efforts were misguided by my incorrect belief that making and keeping friends would be less complicated. Sure, you are thrown together with a grouping of peers in various different spans of life: high school, college, work. I have a handful of people who have hung on, stuck with me and are strung throughout the years of my life, the ones I can see after a length of time and resume our closeness as if nothing has changed. But mostly, I find that rare circumstance based on a combination of pure luck and forgiveness. Meeting up with someone you haven’t seen in years and having it be comfortable or even fun is saying, It’s okay that you haven’t checked in on me. It’s okay that you don’t know where I’ve been or how I’ve felt or what’s worrying me. It’s really alright that you haven’t written or called or Skyped or texted. I get it. We’re all busy. Things happen. We’re here now.
My own friendships go on changing, adjusting by degrees to demands that I won’t totally understand. X becomes a parent. Y wrestles over what a career should look like. Z’s stubborn nostalgia threatens to uproot what we still have in common. The reassuring thing is that no single law rules over us. Friendship is a return, as variable as we are.
Having people to share your life with makes the experiences you have that much more meaningful. Learning to be alone is valuable, as is learning to extend beyond yourself, getting a little uncomfortable and letting someone else in. If you can start from the ground up or uncover relationships you once deemed lost, if you can stop comparing the real world to the Real World, if you're really willing to work for it, if you can open your mind, arms and heart, you'll find the people that belong in your life.
Like Victor Frankl said - “When we can no longer change a situation, we must change ourselves.” My life lesson - expect less but give more. This one is pretty self-explanatory: if you want good friends, be a good friend first. I love my friends and all we had shared. My friends my be spread across the globe, yet I could take something from those memories, and forgive the natural ebbs and flows of life that had moved us apart. Foremost, I could forgive myself.