I re-connected with an old friend recently. Stephanie and I were inseparable at college, sharing essay deadlines, ‘early’ lectures (at 10am, I know) and the particular skill involved in making a student grant stretch each term. We ate a lot of sausages and noodles, and wore all our clothes at once rather than put the heat on. We even shared a tiny room in a truly terrible rented flat (the kitchen ankle-deep in water most days, the decor a mix of sixties floral and seventies beige). Happy days. And now twenty five years have passed and here we are sitting in the garden.
As an adult it’s hard to make friends, yet close friendships are consistently linked to better physical and mental health. Asking the question “will you be my friend?” is fraught with potential humiliation and rejection, so we wait and see, hoping that closeness will happen of its own accord. Maybe we need to be a bit braver and take steps to move from acquaintance to friend.
Female friendships are especially strong. There’s nothing like the close bond that forms when we share secrets, giggle at the same jokes and run to each other at the drop of a hat when life hurts. Katy allowed me to lean on her (literally at one point) during my brother’s funeral. Sally frequently delivers little thoughtful gifts. Cara makes me laugh with her potty-mouthed stories. Julie writes me letters.
And as the blessings are many so, too, is the pain when a friendship ends. There’s really nothing like the loss of a deep connection. Love affairs end in heartbreak and we find sympathy in the telling; friendships end and we have nowhere to go with the grief. Self-criticism and a sharp loss fill our minds as we wonder what happened. And then technology allows for ‘ghosting’ until it slowly dawns that it’s over.
I still miss my best friend. We were opposites but the connection was instant. She moved back to England after fifteen years and following a silly argument about birthdays we simply lost touch. I sent messages and cards and then had to accept that she was no longer in my life.
Friends are friends forever. It’s just that sometimes they shift and change as life moves on. I’ve reconnected with an old friend, found some new ones and so it goes.