For the past two years, I’ve had front-row seats to the slow, painful death of one of my most important friendships. There was no grand falling-out. I loved (and still love) this person deeply, and I know they love me too.
Sadly, that isn’t the point. What used to happen only to other people is now happening to us: we moved to different cities, developed different goals, and realized that without the shared context of place and social group, we have less to talk about than we used to. The love is there, but the commonality is gone. And the prognosis doesn’t look good.
It feels like such a senseless loss. Two people who both care for each other, who spent years laughing with each other, leaning on each other, feeling absolutely essential to each other, now shift uncomfortably at café tables, racking their brains for something to say. And all the while, there were no vicious words exchanged, no cruelty inflicted, just an unwelcome (but undeniable) sense shared by both parties that it’s all over.
Life, for me, has always lacked a sense of continuity. I possess an almost criminal tendency to view my current circumstances as the only relevant ones, and I neglect my past in favor of my present. My direction of choice has always been forward. For the most part, this has served me well. Naturally, though, it means that all but the sturdiest of my relationships suffer when my life changes.
And my life changes a lot. This is the world I inhabit — a world where people are always leaving, moving on to better things, switching jobs, changing cities. We’re supposed to be happy about all of it. We throw them going-away parties, we drive them to the airport, and as the months and years go by, they begin to dissolve. They build new lives that have nothing to do with us, and we fill the hole they left with someone else.
What can we do to save these relationships? Each time I try to figure it out, I find myself drawing a blank. Should we call every day? Send monthly care packages? Pen hand-written letters? These are nice gestures, but they’re also placeholders. They’re Band-Aids. They’re no substitute for face-to-face interaction. And yet they’re all we have.
Maybe we have to make a choice. We can try our best to prolong even our most fragile relationships, or have faith that our strongest ones don’t need such constant attention — they will endure across time and borders, and for this reason, they’re the only ones that matter.
I dislike both of these options. One seems futile, the other callous. But I see no real alternatives, other than becoming the sort of person who lives life in one place, who places familiarity above novelty, stability above excitement, the old above the new.
I know one thing for certain: that’s a choice I’m not willing to make.