A good portion of my teenage years were spent trying to make friends, and by that I mean, not just a few friends. I wanted to be friends with everyone in my high school. I'm not sure if this is really a rare thing though, as I do believe many of us seek out to be friends with all of our classmates. It's just natural.
Once I got to college, I realized that my relationships would mostly be centered on whom was in my classes, whom I roomed with, whom lived across the hall from me and with whom I played sports. College also presents a bit of randomness in the business of making friends such as, "This is my friend of my friend."
One day I had a conversation with my college roommate about friendships during our undergrad years. I viewed most people in college as 'friends' that also had the potential to be lifelong friends. I had made the assumption that some of the people I became friends with while in school would be my friends for the long haul.
She had a completely different opinion. She viewed college as mere moment in time to meet some people and then move on. She had already determined who would be her lifelong friends from high school. She thought that we were just merely passing in each other's lives and years from now we wouldn't be friends. I didn't take offense to this, but I was just surprised by this view. It probably did make me pull in the reigns a bit and not invest too much time in hanging out with her if I was just a 'friend for now'.
Maybe it's naïve of me, but I like to view everyone I meet with the potential to be a friend of mine. Friendships aren't easy to develop, especially when you become an adult. But I think I owe it to myself and the other person to give a possible friendship a breathing chance.
About a year and half later I saw that roommate after we had both graduated from college at the mall, shopping in a retail store. We said our 'hello's' and chatted for a bit. She had moved out of town and I was still in the area, figuring out what I wanted to do with my career. After the conversation ended we turned back to the racks of clothes searching for the perfect outfit.
Then I heard my old roommate say, "Sarah what do you think of this outfit?"
I eagerly turned my head, thrilled that my former roommate was seeking fashion advice from me, just like our college days, when us girls would put our outfits together. But then as I turned my head, I realized that she was speaking to her friend, whose name also happened to be Sarah. She was not speaking to me.
I felt deflated in the reminder that I was now beyond college life. My old roommate and I were no longer intertwined in each other's lives; although at that brief moment I wanted us to be. In that instant, I felt a rising happiness that quickly turned to fleeting sadness.
In some ways my old roommate was right. We were now merely acquaintances in that mall store. We had passed through each other's lives and moved on. Our relationship had been forged in the past with no reason to move it forward.
But in some ways, she was wrong. I've stayed in touch with many who were my college friends. We've been to each other's weddings, helped each other get jobs and stayed connected even though it's been ten years since we graduated.
I've also done some moving around in my twenties. I think people may tend to hold back when they know that they will only be somewhere for a finite amount of time. I never really saw the value in doing that. When I had to leave a town I once called home in a neighboring state, I cried my eyes out. It hurt. It was painful to leave friends behind. But I also know that our friendships were meaningful because of the pain of leaving them behind.
Some of those friends have come back into my life in ways that I never expected. Even though miles separate us now, the sentiment and the time we spent together is still reflected in our correspondence today. Some people from my past have made a profound impact on me, and in way, I a carry a little bit of them with me wherever I go.
We never know who we will meet when we try new things, experience something different or move somewhere. These experiences no doubt will teach us about others, but also teach us things about ourselves that we never knew. Why hold back from this? There might be pain involved when it's time to say goodbye, but there is much more to gain when opening our hearts.