Over the past few years, and especially now as a college graduate, I have been grappling with the idea of sustainable, intentional friendships and what that means to me. This is even harder to implement in a pandemic. Whenever I talk to my parents about their childhoods or their college years, they mention names of individuals with whom they no longer have contact. I have listened to conversations between my mom and her friends in which they speculate about where certain people are. Before college, I never understood how one could lose all contact, or drift apart from someone in the sense that I thought that maintaining friendships was simple. Of course, mostly all of my friendships at that point resided in my hometown, so of course this was easy for me to think as a kid/tween/teen.
I feel as though growing apart from childhood or high school friends is relatively common, so I do not dwell on it too much. The grappling occurs more with relationships that I formed in college and how to maintain those. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I realized that I was surrounded by so many new people with their own stories, and many of these people were already rooting for me in ways that I had not experienced previously. I felt rejuvenated and ready to move forward with my life, and I have been satisfied with the small chunk friendships that I still do have from before I began college. I formed an amazing and large community for myself at the U of M, and I feel like I have met some of the best people in this world through doing so. Of course, throughout the years, I drifted apart from some individuals simply because we did not make the effort to see each other around campus after having a class together or something of the sort, and this is completely fine. Suddenly, though, you and your college friends are not necessarily living in the same place or within walking distance of each other, and you resort to texting, FaceTiming, and social media to keep up with them. This takes more energy than one might think, especially when your entire world turns virtual due to a pandemic.
Sometimes, I have also just had to accept that I have done everything I can to reach out to someone, and I have not received anything in return (this applies both ways). At the same time, graduating during this time and giving people grace must also be taken into consideration. Is someone not responding because they are struggling (this applies pandemic or otherwise)? I use the “baby in the backseat” mentality so much that I find difficulty in differentiating between letting someone go or keeping my door open for them. I also think that my feelings are valid in wanting to feel chosen and wanting to have friends who are truly in my corner.
I try to be as intentional as possible and text people when I think about them. I want my friends to know that I am always here, and our friendships mean so much to me even if I haven’t seen them in months or do not talk to them regularly. The issue lies in how draining this can be. At certain points, one has to give others the opportunity to choose them rather than living in the fear that they will not do so by not giving them the chance. I fight so hard to keep people in my life, and this past year has been challenging in that sense, but I have pushed myself to not think too deeply (as I am prone to doing) about certain people or relationships.
People always say that as we grow older, our circles become smaller. Friendships can fade even if nothing happens, and they might actually fade because nothing happened. The energy and effort were not there, and little communication took place. I am not writing this post because I have experienced this recently; this post actually resided in my drafts for months, and I am still mulling over this topic after all of this time. I always will because I do not think one “right” answer exists to how one can maintain all of their relationships in a healthy manner. I keep arriving at the realization that I am not going to run into friends while walking around campus or being in classes/meetings with them, and I am not living with a few of my friends in an apartment, so more effort will be needed to maintain these friendships that seemed to flow so easily. We could all be states or countries away from each other if we are not already, and keeping these relationships alive will take lots of care. I also remind myself that I probably have not met even half of the people I will meet in my life, and being in a new place allows for this which excites me.
All we can do is ask ourselves whether we are happy in a relationship, and whether this person is still adding to our lives. In an ideal world, friendships would be as simple as asking someone to play in the sandbox or swing on the swing set with us, but unfortunately we are not currently in that world, and we cannot help growing older. We learn that time is fleeting, and we desire to surround ourselves with people who make us forget this fact for a moment. Feeling sad, or even heartbroken, about a lost friendship is okay, and so is moving forward without them. We can still cheer for people who are no longer in our lives and this is something that we all need to remember.