Recently I unearthed a box of old letters from when I was in middle school, high school, and college. I had saved every note, birthday card, and letter from anyone who considered themselves my "friend" from that era of life. I sat on my living room floor for a good 3 hours reading through each one of them.
Several times, I would poke my head up from reading and say to my husband, "Oh my gosh! I remember this person! We used to be friends!" Memories of middle school antics would flood my mind and I find myself smiling. In an instant, I could recall all the punch lines to our inside jokes.
The were were other times I read letters from high-school boys from other states, and finally realizing at 34 years of age that perhaps they were looking for something more from me than just a pen pal friendship. I completely missed their not so subtleties when they wrote things like, "You are beautiful. I love you. Would you ever date someone like me?". The degree of naivety I possessed at age 16 alarms me. How am I still alive?
Then there were the college friends, offering words of encouragement and the sage wisdom they had acquired after a few months of a sophomore year at university. Dear heavens, we allthought we knew everything about everything in our sophomore year of college. Boy, were we all wrong.
Are these people still my friends? Well, according to Facebook they are. Occasionally, I stalk their present world with a few clicks to see what their spouses look like...and how many kids they have and if any one of them became what they used dreamed of becoming (rock stars, famous actors, writers, professional athletes, etc). It always makes my day, when I discover that one of them really did pursue their dream.
But do I talk to these "friends of old" on a regular basis? No.
I don't even talk to the mothers I used to be friendly with at the preschool my daughter attended nearly four years ago. Sure, we "like" each other's posts and pictures on social media, but do I have a clue as to what is going on in their lives? Not even an ounce. Does this make me a bad person? A bad friend? I don't know. Probably.
Several months ago, I gave a survey where nearly 100 women answered questions about their personal experience with friendship. When asked, "What thing do you believe hinders a friendship the most?", the number one answer given across the board (age demographic, religion, race, social economy) was:
"Season of life change."
It's easy to stay tight with someone who is in the same season of life as you. But what happens when one person's journey moves fasters than yours? What happens when you move on to something completely different and that friend you use to share "life space" with, is still hanging back? Friendships often will fade with time.
Researchers talk about friendships of commitment vs. friendships of convenience. The stark truth of it is that most of our friendships are made up of that which are "convenience" (the moms at the bus top, the co-workers at our present job, the roommates we share a dorm with, etc.).
It is those friendships of commitment, that are rare. I have a friend who is rarely in the same season of life as me. The only thing we share is our age and our faith. We don't share the same city or family dynamic. We are not even close to sharing the same "work season". I work at home. She works at a school and is going to school on top of that.. However, we are fiercely committed to each other. We are friends of commitment.
The important things to remember is that both friendships of convenience and commitment are valuable to our growth. Okay, so maybe you are no longer besties with the gal who gave you a "Best Friends Forever" "halved heart necklace" in sixth grade. However, the friendship she extended to you back in those days were important in shaping how you give friendship today. Maybe you don't talk as much to your old college roommate, but when she does call, those 20 minutes of reminiscing reminds you of the person you used to be.... and how far you've come and how much you have stayed the same at the core. Perhaps, you are not in regular contact with the old co-worker that used to share a drink with you every Friday after a long week of work. Honor the fact that you had someone who you could complain to, celebrate with, and survive 5 days a week of the 9-5. Sure, these were friendships of convenience but they were necessary to surviving that season of life you were in.
Yes, some friendships do fade with time. It would impossible to keep up with them all. Some, we wish we could have held onto longer, but regardless, the value of those friendships still remain. They may be here today and gone tomorrow, but deep in our heart they are kept safe for the keeping. Like a box of old letters, they remind us that we were loved and continue to still be.