For the majority of my conscious life, I’ve chased the idea of close friendship, coming close to execution of said idea but almost always foiled by that pesky thing called distance. One of the greatest drawbacks to homeschooling can be the lack of a subset of similar-aged little people to select from as friends. As a child, I pined for friends of my own age and I went to great lengths (in retrospect) to maintain whatever semblance of friendship I could. I didn’t understand the “why” then but a side effect of my near constant contact with my parents and their adult world led to a rapid maturation. I spent my days surrounded by adults, reading texts and hearing about subjects far beyond my “reading level”. As priests and spiritual counselors, my parents were privy to some of the most intimate details of peoples’ lives, details that I overheard, without much understanding, over the course of my childhood. I remember having conversations about parenting, yes, parenting at age 9 and walking away from this conversation with the woman saying “I can’t believe you’re that only 9”. I talked theology and philosophy with adults at the annual AAPI conferences my parents would attend, often befriending doctors in their late 20s and never knowing how to respond when they’d back away, shocked, that I was a pre-teen.
So when I met someone I clicked with, who happened to be my age, suffice it to say my imagination went into overdrive. I dreamt up a closeness that mimicked the book versions of true friendship I read about. I was willing to give and to give and to give and exhaust myself giving to preserve the sanctity of this beloved bond.
In the last few years, especially this year, I’ve lost a number of friends. Considering I barely had a consistent group of people in a single place until college, this pain is foreign and the experiences even more difficult than I could ever imagine them to be. You see, when you fall as a child, your distance from your emotions and your lack of benchmark allows you to spring back up.
As an adult, I’ve begun to wallow, finding it harder to spring up and easier to replay the events in my mind over and over, reopening the wounds and veritably picking until they bleed all over again. Some of the losses have resulted from clear communication of unaligned goals which results in the clearest break of friendship. Others, the more muddled ones, are the direct result of ghosting, when friends have simply stopped corresponding to a point that they feel like ghosts, haunting me with questions of what went wrong and hypothetical alternate conversations or outcomes. Still others have opted for the clear stab, “let’s not be friends anymore”, largely for reasons unknown to me but perhaps springing from newfound relationships in which my presence seems unnecessary. In many of these situations, it’s easy to be told to “get over it” or to feel better by creating the us vs. them dichotomy in which your support group props you up as better or more deserving than them. Sometimes this ego boost can feel good. With friendships though, you’re agreeing to let a non blood relative in to your life, confiding and creating with them a set of memories, conversations and emotions to attach to your relationship. When that’s all gone, it takes a portion of your identity as well.
Today I’m grateful for the resilience of the spirit and the depth of the heart to feel so deeply pain that cannot always be expressed. It’s not easy feeling so much but it certainly makes life a much richer and rewarding experience.