Why it’s not the end of the world when our old friendships fade away
Everything in life is subject to change, and that includes even our closest friendships.
At university, my best friend Michelle and I were part of a tight trio that included a friend I’ll call Greg.
We did almost everything together, a situation that continued after school, when we were all living together in Johannesburg, and beyond – even when Michelle and Greg emigrated to different countries.
What started as a small triangle expanded to global proportions, but we still managed to keep up with each other’s lives.
And then I got divorced. Michelle – because she is the world’s most amazing human being and BFF – ramped up the support, and she and her husband were there for me.
Greg, however, after a friendship of 25 or so years, cut off all contact. No explanation, no fight, no nothing.
He was there for me one minute, and gone the next. Emails went unanswered, I was unfriended (and possibly blocked) on Facebook, and texts were ignored.
For a long time, it hurt like hell. For a long time, I would lie awake in bed agonising over losing this cherished friendship, until eventually I moved through those famous stages of grief and accepted that the friendship was over, tough as that was to do.
The older I get however, and as I look back at some of the friends that have come and gone, and those that have stayed, I realise that while a handful of friends will remain in place, for the most part, friendships will ebb and flow.
People change. They move, both physically and emotionally. They go through crises and challenges that make them see the world, and us, in different ways. And so do we.
And so, we cannot expect that they will always be there.
Removing that expectation makes all the difference, because it reminds us to cherish them now, while they are in our circle, and not take them for granted.
And then, when we – or they – change, it reminds us to let them go, and to do so with grace.
Friendship has changed in the era of social media.
My best friends from Sub A (Grade 1 for the uninitiated) are Facebook friends now.
So is my best friend from Std 7 (Grade 5) and Std 7 (Grade 9). Are we still friendly? Yes, of course.
It was fun to reconnect and find out what they’ve been up to. I still enjoy following their updates on Facebook, and if we met for a coffee, we’d have a great time.
But if I’m honest, they’re not truly my friends anymore, because that connection has become more superficial.
Could we become friends; move closer to each other again? Absolutely. No doubt we still have a lot in common.
But we move in separate circles now, and those circles intersect much further away. And that’s okay.
My circle of close friends still shifts from time to time, and I watch it with curiosity, because it often reflects changes in me – how I am developing and growing, even at this age.
I am constantly delighted when I make a new friend.
Sometimes, if I’m honest, I’m delighted when an old friend drifts away, because we’ve kind of outgrown each other. Why?
Because it frees us both up to look for people who fit better.
Death and taxes may be two of the only certainties in life, but as Heraclitus of Ephesus pointed out, so is change, which and that includes our friendships.
We can try to escape the change, but it’s inevitable. I’ve chosen to embrace it and see it as a journey of discovery, about my friends, and about myself.
And what an interesting journey it continues to be!