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Ah, the pride of youth. I disagree but edit the speech anyway to say that we will update each other on Facebook.
That was more than five years ago. Guess what? They were right. I worked as a volunteer at the school for a few months, but after I resigned and started a different job, I saw less and less of batchmates, classmates, schoolmates. I don't even get to visit the school though it's practically one ride away from where I work. There are some batchmates that I only get to see once every two years. There are even some I haven't seen since the day we graduated more than four years ago.
A part of me is glad that our dean advised me to edit the script instead of promising on stage before a hundred witnesses that our batch would get to meet regularly. Life just...happens. We cannot control the fact that people move to different countries, get jobs in different cities, that even those with jobs in the same city where you work are too busy to make it to the get-together dinner you planned. I'm not just talking about my batchmates here, but even the friends I grew up with in our homeschooling journey, the youth from the church we used to attend, cousins, relatives. We cannot help it that our lives are constantly shifting, changing--what we considered a hobby then is a distant memory. What we promised to do regularly becomes a thing of the past.
I can remember the times I loosely promised a few friends, "I'll always be here for you." I realize that I can't. If said friend called me up in the middle of the night, would I be willing to rush all the way to her house to be with her, to give her that hug she needs or just hear her out? Would I be willing to take a day off from my job all of a sudden just so that we can skip town and she can get a momentary breath of fresh air away from all the stressors in life?
The truth is...probably not.
We have our own priorities, our own schedules, the many different things that demand our time. I've turned down countless birthdays, camps, weddings, not because I didn't want to go, but because my priorities were different. I've had to say no to get-togethers and parties and reunions because I had to get some things done.
Sometimes you come together and it feels great, just like old times. Sometimes you see even older friends, those you haven't seen for about ten years and the camaraderie is there. But it stays at the level where you can laugh and talk about crazy, random things, but not really about those deep matters of the heart, the ones that bug you every day. Sure, you used to be able to talk about those things to that group, but things have changed and if you were all pieces of a puzzle, you've each been reshaped until you no longer really fit with each other. Old circles of friendships are outgrown, and new ones take their place. Feels traitorious, doesn't it?
I won't pretend to be an expert on friendships, but I have learned some things along the way:
You can't force friendships, but, like all relationships, you must work extra hard for it to cultivate and grow. Friendship is a two-way street. You cannot always be the one giving or the one taking. There must be a balance, a yin and yang, mutual respect, though friends do not always see eye-to-eye.
Some people are only in our lives for a season. This, I heard countless times from our chaplain while I was still studying, but I never really understood what it meant until I became older and many people walked in and out of my life. Just because you don't spend much time with friends doesn't always mean you appreciate or love them less; it can simply mean that life is happening and deadlines are looming and the dog has no food. In the same way, just because your friends can't spend much time with you doesn't mean they no longer care about you.
We need to be with people who challenge us and make us grow. I remember how my parents "threatened" to cut off any friendship I had with anyone if they saw that it was influencing me for the worse. I have had to cut off some friendships on my own—like someone whose version of "fun" was taking me to the bar so we could flirt with foreigners and get drunk. My point is—iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Be with people who challenge you to go out of your comfort zone, with those you know will give you honest feedback about your strengths and weaknesses, not with those who will make you feel good with meaningless compliments and empty flattery all the time. This doesn't mean you can't be friends with them, but if you wish to grow, you have to spend time with those who in turn are also willing to grow.
And as for old circles and new circles of friendship, there will always be love, there will always be respect. But there won't always be common schedules and common hobbies. People change, hobbies change, interests change. We find ourselves seeing the old group less and sharing less. Oh, we still see the old group every now and then. Not as often as we hoped to and not for as long as we would want. Sometimes, we only have time for a quick dinner and a few hasty how-are-yous. In the meantime, new friends come into our lives, we form new groups, we share our thoughts and find that, after the laughter and fun, we can go deeper and talk about what is in our hearts, share things that once we thought we could only share to our old group. And I think that that's how it is, that that's life and that it's okay. In the end, we can't really measure our friendships by "those-who-stayed-and-those-who-left." It isn't an accurate measurement of relationships and how much you've helped each other to grow. I think one of the tests of a true friendship is how they have impacted your life. It could have been for a short time, with them walking out shortly after and leaving the cliché footprints on your heart. But if they change you, stretched you, challenged you, helped you grow--then maybe, just maybe, you've got a true friend there, no matter what season of your life they're in and for how long they will stay.