Tag Archives: Friendship

Into the Memory Box

16 Apr

When I walked into my childhood bedroom a couple of months ago, I found a plastic box sitting on my desk. The box held a scattered assortment of things my mom had found around the house: souvenirs from family trips, commemorative pins, jewelry I used to wear as a kid.

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Many of the things in that box felt pleasantly relevant today. A bracelet from my first trip to Paris, when I fell in love with the city and the language. The baton necklace isn’t something I’d actually wear today, but I still proudly call myself a baton twirler—and even taught a baton class at work last week. The cable car necklace, a souvenir from a family trip to San Francisco, is even more special now that I’ve lived in SF for 5 years.

But then we get to the gold necklace on the left, the one that looks like half a heart. That’s part of a classic friendship necklace, the kind that’s broken in two to symbolize everlasting friendship. Except…I have no idea who had the other half.

There’s something funny about that. At some point in time, I considered someone important enough to split a friendship necklace with them, declaring our everlasting friendship. And yet here we are, probably 20 years later, and I haven’t a clue who had the other half.

To be fair, those things weren’t exclusive relationships. I split friendship necklaces and bracelets with many people over the years…often at the same time. This necklace wasn’t like a written decree to ONLY be best friends with that one person, despite what “best” technically implies. I had several “best” friends, some “bester than others.” Even as a (word obsessed) kid, I found the fact that you could have more than 1 “best” friend a tad confusing. But I called lots of people my best friend back then.

So back to our mystery: who had the other half? My life swirled around over the years from school to school, hobby to hobby. I can think of many candidates for the other half, but nothing’s confirmed. Odds are that I’m not close to that person anymore, since my world changed so much over the years, and mostly shifted away from people I knew as a kid.

When I was really young, I accepted that friendships broke, and you moved on. You switched classes or changed levels at ballet or moved, and that’s just how things went. But as I got older, I resisted the idea of friendships that end. These days, I’m terrible at letting go of friendships. I hate the fact that someone who mattered so incredibly much to you at one point in life, could matter very little later on. It hurts to think about people who defined certain years of my memories, but no longer pop up in my world today. It pains me when someone drifts away, and I feel so incredibly bad when I’m the one who drifts away, too.  I want to keep all the people I like close, in my life, as much as I can.

But that’s just not how life works. I’ve gotten a little better over the years at accepting this truth about friendship: not all friendships last forever. The right people will stay in your life, and both sides have to put in effort and energy and care for that to happen. You have to invest in the relationships that mean the most and work the best. And you have to accept that sometimes, you’re just not someone else’s “friend priority” when they do their own round of investing and working and prioritizing.

I still treasure memories of people who meant something in the past, even if they’re not around now. I’m grateful for whoever had the other half of this necklace, because even if I can’t place who it is, I know they must have been important to me at a particular time in my life. I’m grateful that back then, they meant enough to me for us to declare ourselves BFFs, believing we’d be there for each other through thick and thin. Even if that didn’t last, maybe the true purpose of the necklace was the support it gave us at the time. Sometimes you just don’t end up BFFs, despite buying jewelry about it. Still, it’s nice to know that at some point, I felt so strongly about someone being meaningful that we should wear symbols of that friendship. And it’s nice to know that when I was young and needed that friendship, someone was there for me to wear the matching half.

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Stand By Me

11 May

On the first day of high school, my entire grade was split into groups to take campus tours. The groups were split alphabetically, by last name. Two girls had the same last name, and instantly bonded over it. I happened to be standing next to them. What happened next? The three of us became friends. And though 1 of those girls ultimately transferred away from our high school, the 2nd girl and I are still friends today, over a decade later.

Puerto de Sol: A very crowded place

Puerto de Sol: A town square of friendships just waiting to happen

Fast forward several years and I’m standing in Madrid’s Puerta de Sol. It’s my second or so week studying abroad in Spain. As one of the centers of Madrileno life, the town square was bustling. I was there that day to to take a “welcome to Madrid” tour with students from ERASMUS, a European exchange student network. I didn’t know anyone else on the tour, and started talking to the people who happened to be standing next to me. They soon became some of the most important people in my study abroad experience.

I’ve always found it funny how friendships can be born of convenience and logistics. We want to think that all of our friends become our friends because we share values and  interests. And sure, I have lots of friends like that- friends I met through extracurriculars, or people that I got to know over time. But I often find it sort of funny that many of my good friends popped up into my life simply because at some point, they were standing right there, next to me. The fact we stayed friends was our own doing, of course. But the initial “meeting” wasn’t.

College students in the U.S. will relate to the “Freshman Floor” scenario, where you become really close to people on your freshman floor. You may have filled out a housing survey before you go to college, but I guarantee you that your university didn’t make you all take a personality quiz, then match you up based on moral codes, religious beliefs, etc. Many of those assignments were probably quite random. And yet, freshman floormates bond instantly, because of proximity and because of being together in a new environment. Many freshman floormates live together throughout college, even when they don’t “have” to. I didn’t live with any freshman floormates beyond my first year, but that’s largely because my best friends from my freshman floor were male. And guess what? We’re still friends today.

It’s not that I think my friends and I SHOULDN’T be friends, or that we’re only friends by default. I just find it interesting that many of my friendships grew out of who I happened to be next to at some particular moment in time. I notice these social dynamics most when it’s a group of people who are all new to each other, and there’s no preexisting social grouping. It seems like people gravitate to one group or another, and stick it out.

Does this mean that you should strategically choose your seat the next time you enter a room of new people? Probably not- unless you’re someone who chooses friends based on appearance alone (in which case, shame on you!). Until you talk to someone, you really won’t know if you’re destined to be friends, and you won’t know whether you’ll want to put in the effort and nurture good friendships need. But the next time you go to a conference or something else with a group dynamic and a bunch of unfamiliar people- keep an eye on how social groups form. It may very well be that like people gravitate to like people… or it may be that it’s simply easiest to get to know someone who is put right in your path.

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