We make friends at different stages of our lives and they form clusters and rarely mix for various reasons. But the ones we hold on to the longest are our school or university friends. Opportunities and experiences take these friends on different paths but each try to hold on to the other for those wonderful memories. But with time and various life choices and stages, friends change. Slowly it becomes a battle to stay in touch and even when it happens the connection seems strained or even lost.
I had two clients recently who had very similar experiences. Here are their stories.
Aanya grew up in a small city but had accomplished a lot nationally. These opportunities she landed led to new and varied experiences, travel opportunities and exposure to new way of thinking and living. But Aanya’s friends back home always stayed close to home and continued living their “standard” life – husband, marriage, children and more children. A few had careers and Aanya could relate to their lives but was losing touch with the others who were happy as home makers. Aanya had nothing against them being home makers but found it very difficult to have discussions beyond babies and home renovations. Every time she attempted to talk about her life and plans for a new career they either did not seem to get it or were not really interested. Over time she felt she was losing interest in meeting them and was moving further and further away from them.
When I asked her what did she get from keeping in touch with them, it was all the past memories – the laughter, cries, stupidities, pranks, fun parties, history etc. She was desperately trying to hold on to that. Things had gotten worse with Covid where zoom calls had become the norm and things had gotten less fun or no fun at all.
At this point I mentioned something I had read. There are three types of friendships – Friends for a reason, season and lifetime. She thought hard about it and then came the revelation and answer. She realised she loved to hang out with her school friends when she had the opportunity to dress up and go out to fancy restaurants and bars. Where the ambience took them back in time to the good old days. Even if the conversation drifted to babies and home improvements, it was still worth it. She was hanging out with her old friends at a nice place, enjoying a nice evening out. These were her friends for a “Reason”.
She knew she did not like the zoom calls as it gave her back nothing. It was not fun, in fact difficult as she had to hold back her thoughts and opinions. She was so clear in her mind now as to where she stood regarding her school friends, which just simplified her decisions and choices.
Anita also grew up in a very town. Her parents were conservative and so were the town people. But very early on (since 5th standard) she knew there was more to life than this small town. She always met interesting people and even met her boyfriends when she went travelling. She went to study abroad (across continents) and met people who were “open minded” and “different”. Life seemed fuller and opportunities seemed limitless. Even though she has returned home, but only for a brief period.
During this period back home, she met with her school friends. But found it very difficult to connect with them. They all seemed “stuck” in their “standard/ normal lives”. Anita felt judged whenever she met them. At this point I asked her what she got from keeping in touch with them. It was the same answer, past memories. They were her oldest friends. She was holding onto this past though her future was in the opposite direction, literally.
We explored when was the last time she had a good conversation with these friends. It was when she was abroad. Her friends always seemed happy to hear from her and wanted to know all about her life abroad. Her stories from a faraway land sounded more interesting than Anita’s ideas, thoughts and opinion from up close. As did Anita herself. She enjoyed sharing all about her “foreign” life with friends back home rather than tell them about her new ideas for her new career to which she often received confused looks, almost judgemental.
The session had been hard for Anita because somewhere in the middle of the session she felt, letting go of her friendship seemed like the best option rather than dragging it along grudgingly. But by the end Anita had made a decision, she did not want to lose her friends. She had also found a solution without having to put herself through an ordeal whenever she met them. Her best chance to continue her friendship was from afar. This conclusion gave her so much peace and happiness. She did not have to lose her fiends and also had found a way to hold on.