I’m no friend-expert. But I do have friends, and I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
We can say a friendship just stopped. Faded out, maybe. Disappeared. But things like that don’t just stop. That’s putting the responsibility on a situation or circumstance, like moving away. But in reality it’s what we prioritise; it’s where we place our time, and effort, and love.
Sure, moving away is a big thing – I know all about that. But it’s up to you who you keep in contact with, how much you let them into a life that they may not know much about. It gets difficult; you have new priorities and different things to focus on, immediate things on your radar that make it hard to see the peripheral.
It takes effort to keep any friendship strong, and a different kind of effort to keep one that you can’t see. Exercising a different muscle, you could say (although I don’t really like the word ‘muscle’ so maybe let’s not say that again).
The reason I say this is because seeing my friends everyday during high school is much different to planning meet-ups around all your commitments. In a way – and it sounds a bit bad to say this – you have to schedule friendships. I think that sounds bad because ‘if you’re friends it happens naturally, you don’t need to schedule’, but with conflicting work and study hours, yes, yes you do. There’s a different kind of care that comes with holding onto a friend who you only see if you both make time.
We all choose what we prioritise, whether it’s a conscious decision or not. (Like, someone might prioritise work even if they don’t know they’re doing it. But it becomes evident in other areas of their life.)
Maybe you’ve prioritised a friendship and they didn’t and it was too draining to maintain. Maybe you both pursued different things in life and found it easier than you expected to let go. Different seasons call for different relationships, and different types of relationships.
I think of it like a target.
People in the centre, who I make time and effort for (and will continue to do so even if, at points, it’s one-sided) and who will generally do the same for me. Regardless of where we’re at in life, it wouldn’t be easy to stop the friendship. These people I have more leniency for; if they stop putting in equal amounts of effort, I’m not going to let go right away. If they’re late to a meet-up, I’m going to wait for them.
(Actually, I’ll probably wait for anyone just because I don’t know what to do in these kind of situations and tend to go a bit nicer than meaner. Hence, staying rather than leaving.)
And so on so forth; as we gradually leave the bullseye, the priority lessens because the relationship isn’t as important, close, meaningful, all of the above. Whatever reason, the friendship holds less weight.
Maybe it’s not that clear-cut. Maybe it’s more complicated than I’m making it out to be; because there so many different circumstances, like having close friends live far away or friends who you don’t talk to often but you can easily pick up where you left off. Or relationships that aren’t necessarily friendships; teachers, mentors, relatives. (But I’m not going to get into all of that.)
Do you remember when you were in high school and all the teachers would tell your group of friends that you wouldn’t be friends forever? And everyone promised to be the exception?
It’s a fair warning: you’re young and have all these commonalities with the people around you, and then suddenly everyone’s moving away and finding new interests and new friends and walking different paths and it gets hard to keep track of it all. People change, relationships change. One week of silence turns into two and then it’s been six months and you no longer know whether they’re still your friend.
And that’s okay; that’s life.
Well, maybe it’s not okay, but it happens and, generally speaking, I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, nor intentional.
Right now I remain to be friends with most of my high school group. To varying degrees, and some friendships have been strengthened since our teen years whilst others have lessened. I’m not claiming to be brilliant at staying in contact, but for now I like how things are going so I’m going to give to these people whether or not we’ll be friends in two years, ten years, twenty years.
I’m not going to cut all ties just because things can, and will, change in the future.
In all of this, perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is: people will swim in and out of your life. But just because they swim away, or you do, doesn’t diminish the time they did spend swimming with you. But if they’re just floating and you’re the only one swimming, then you’re going to be tired and they’re not because you’re making an effort to swim and they’re not.
That was not a good analogy because I used the term ‘swim’ one million times and it didn’t quite hit the mark. But I believe I’ve made my point.