The topic of friendships has played on my mind recently, partly due to moving to a country where I knew nobody except the boyfriend I moved with and partly because I’ve been reflecting on what makes us lose touch, fall out or grow apart from friendships that once meant a lot to us.
I won’t lie: it’s been tough making friends in Toronto. I love my boyfriend but however much you enjoy each other’s company, it’s always good to have other people to talk to about different things with, because we’re not (usually) clones of our other halves. We both became friends with another couple, a very lovely pair, but as they say, all good things come to an end – they moved away to the US. Boo.
So that got me thinking: the reason making friends is difficult is not as simple as just not being able to locate people. It’s the fact that you want to click with someone, find someone on your wavelength. You want to enjoy similar things but also learn some new things they love. You want to be in tune so you can laugh at the same things, get into funny situations and feel the freedom to be yourself around them, whether that’s for the happy or sad times.
It struck me that I don’t find it particularly hard to actually talk to new people here in Toronto, it’s that I haven’t found anyone I click with or can entirely be myself around. It’s also the case of whether they feel the same around you; I believe you can’t be close to someone if they don’t show the same interest – quite like a romantic relationship, really.
In turn, that got me thinking to present and past friendships. Now, I don’t like to dwell too much because what’s done is done and if I’m not going to do anything about it then what’s the point in overthinking? But at the same time I think these sort of things are interesting to ponder over.
In my lifetime I think it’s fair to say I’ve lost a few friends. There have been the ones that I’ve cut out or have cut me out: some in a horrible way that honestly have been some of the most hurtful experiences; some because of a fall out that I felt changed my perception of their character and led to a decision that they wouldn’t be a benefit to my life; some who were people that never supported me, bitched behind my back and were exhausting to deal with.
It was during one of the latter problems during university that a friend once gave me an analogy I’ve kept with me: people are either drains or radiators – the drains suck the life out of you whereas the radiators give you warmth. I think that’s a pretty good way to assess the value of a friendship and whether it is or isn’t working. Obviously I don’t like the idea of being cut throat and throwing away a friendship just like that; I’m a huge advocate of talking things out. I just think when you’ve got a ‘drain’ friend and you finally see that, you know it’s the right thing to do – for both of you, really.
Then there are the people you drift from. When growing up I think I was always someone to look forward and move away and forget the bad times, and in so doing, I didn’t keep in touch with many people from school until the age of 18. When I’ve thought about it, there’s probably two people I would have loved to have kept in contact with from my sixth form (last two years at school, age 16-18 for any non-Brits reading). There are more from university; I had a pretty good crew in my first year flat and I wish I kept in regular touch with probably two or three of the guys I lived with.
I’m under no doubts that this goes through other people’s minds too, so why do we think about these almost or lost friendships even now? For me, I think it’s because no matter what person I was in those stages of my life – and believe me, I was very different – there was always an undercurrent of who I really am/who I was meant to be/the real me (however ‘fate’-like you want to believe) that connected me to these people.
They had the qualities that at the time I didn’t even realise I appreciated in a friend: the two people from sixth form because they were exceptionally nice and caring in a sea of manipulative, game-playing cliques. The three people from my first year for very different reasons: one had similar values, music taste and humour to me, another used to be my support while I was an emotional first year wreck about boys and the other was just fun and silly but still normal, which appealed to my silly side and made me take things a little less seriously – or it would have, if I had been a bit less uptight.
It doesn’t fail to occur to me that now, I think I would still be excellent friends with these people – but then again, things are fairly unknown in life as to why that changed or whether you would actually still be friends now.
And then there are the oddball scenarios that feel like a throwback to playground arguments… the ones where something happened i.e. a falling out, but you both thought of it in different ways, or others where you thought you were growing apart but they didn’t see it. And these ones are strange because you’re not really sure how to feel about them. Because something did happen, so you dislike them… or they handled things immaturely, so you think why would I want to be friends with someone like that… or they changed, so you think that equals the end of a friendship. It becomes uncomfortable to have to second guess something you felt was fairly concrete; it can make you wonder if they cared about the friendship at all or deliberately intended to hurt you.
Then again, you remember the good times with them: they might have been someone who you always had a lot of fun and the biggest laugh with, they could have been someone you enjoyed that pretty rare click with, someone who you had a closeness with which you didn’t have with any of your other friends. Then you have a choice to make: did the good outweigh the bad? Do you really want that person out of your life? Would you drop stubbornness and pride… or was it just the last straw and/or you truly don’t care that much?
A lot of things can challenge a friendship, from different life paths, to developing new opinions or attitudes, to travel. Friendships aren’t necessarily all smooth sailing and they take work, especially after you all leave the same environment – it’s not as easy to feel connected or understand each other when you haven’t got the same, shared experience like school or university.
You see around the old interweb that friends are basically the family you choose for yourself. I agree with that – it seems pretty ideal to have one family who are related to you and would do anything for you as well as your own little self-made family to be supportive and see each other through the pitfalls and celebrations of growing up together and facing the obstacles of your generation. Of course you’ll make mistakes, nobody’s a perfect friend. And you’re bound to find it hard to make friends sometimes even if you think – and probably do – have a lot to offer. But I guess all you can do is hope that the ones that really do love you and appreciate your friendship in the first place see through any bad times or break in contact and the future friends you come to make will come, and they’ll make you a better person, and you them.
Because as I expressed in a previous post, whether far away or close to home, friendships that stick are absolutely amazing things.