Archive for September 12, 2009

8436-300x226-Circle_of_friendsI’ve reached the point now where I look back at my past in roughly 5-10 year increments. The reason for this is simple. I’ve reached the age where my memory can actually reference a span of 10 years at a time. Although I’ve been alive for three decades, it is only now that my “adult” mind can put these larger chunks of time in perspective. My so-called “child’s” mind at age 10 certainly could not perceive the concept of 10 years into the past or future (at that age, I would agonize over how long it took for a mere hour to pass during boring events, and conversely, when I was busy at play, time would streak by).

Life at that age seemed to pass with a paradoxical slowness and rapidity, mostly marked with physiological and academic milestones. At age 20, I could by now, remember back to age 10, but the memories were fuzzy and I was driven by a desire to escape my childhood and define myself as an “adult.” As far as projecting any years into the future, it seems that I was afflicted with the same sort of myopia that most young adults experience. It is a type of nearsightedness towards the seemingly distant future between late twenties and thirtysomething, a type of youthful indulgence bordering on thinking oneself to be invincible.

It was during my 20’s that I really started to notice the sensation of time passing more rapidly, and I both savored and splurged away what some would call the “prime” years of my life. It is nothing I regret, but nevertheless, I arrived at age 30 with all the abruptness of a monsoon rainstorm in the desert. Just like in the days of my childhood, time seemed to fly when I was having fun, but long gone were the days of trudging through boring hours or minutes. Now time flies, period.

I bring up the subject of time and memories to touch upon another subject, which is friendships and how I relate to people. I feel that I have arrived at a unique point in my life where I am able to reconcile my past and future. At this important crossroads, I can recognize the different phases and states of growth I have achieved over the last three decades and also have the perspective of scale to appreciate the sanctity of youth and the brevity of time.

My friends have always been like an extended family to me. They are an extension of myself, for I would not know myself without the help of my friends. What curiosities they are! I have often contemplated the forces that brought us together and the mysterious lines of connection that forms the web of our intertwined lives. What remains equally baffling to me are the forces that break friendships and the lines of repulsion that drive us apart. Actually, the conclusion that I have come to is a maddeningly simple one: friendships end because people outgrow each other.
No one party is usually to blame for this phenomenon. To grow is to change, and life is always moving and changing. People continue to grow throughout their lives and some friendships grow together, while others grow apart. This fact is not particularly surprising nor profound, yet the sting of loss felt by a cherished relationship never fails to ambush me at the times when I long for it the most.

I have often felt like the one left behind, clinging to a particular friendship or idea of a friendship. I haven’t had very many long-term friendships that have endured the test of time and growth. I attribute this mainly to moving around a lot as a kid, losing touch with those whom I bonded with during some very formative years. Perhaps I simply got a taste of life early on, and how it tends to move on, and move us on as well. Whatever the case, it is what it is, and I am left pondering at those forgotten friendships of old, and grateful for those that have remained.

Most of my friends and acquaintances these days have their own lives and wives (kids too), and they have “moved on” in that sense. I have come to realize that this is natural and to be expected. But there are definitely those certain friendships that I had hoped and intended would last a lifetime. It is these relationships that I have placed the most fervor and importance in keeping in touch and maintaining contact. But it seems that no matter how much I may want a friendship to continue, sometimes it is doomed to end.

It is like my emotions and memories of these people are locked in a time machine that is stuck on our connected past. I keep pursuing these people, expecting them to be the same, and whatever fundamental force that brought us together would still be alive and well, if not for anything else than the virtue of me wishing it so. The memories I have of these relationships are like snapshots, static and unchanging. Well, actually, perhaps my memories of some of my favorite relationships have morphed over the years, erring on the side of idealizing these people, my mind making larger-than-life characters out of them, and maybe that’s why I have such a difficult time letting go. Maybe it’s just me longing for the “good ol’ days,” a time when there seemed to exist endless possibilities, when the future wasn’t so determined, a time before I became jaded by this so-called “adulthood.” And then I realized that nothing lasts forever, and people move on with the motion of their lives.

As undoubtedly cynical as I have become with the disappointment of broken friendships, lost loves, and severed connections, I too have represented the agent of change, moving on from relationships that I have lost interest in or outgrew. This has typically been unintentional, but as life moves, I have moved with it and I am left with the awareness of having pursued people, and of having been pursued by people. I like to call this the cycle of pursuit/rejection.
What fuels this cycle, especially during adulthood, I believe, is the notion of time being an ever-increasingly precious commodity. For those of us who are aware of this phenomena, the thought of wasted time is scornful. Essentially, the older we get, the more strategic we are (and perhaps more frugal we become), with our time allowances. We put time into the relationships we want to nurture, and marginalize the ones that don’t matter as much.

Perhaps I’m sounding a bit cold about the whole thing, but I truly believe that a person will pursue what they want to experience, and reject what they don’t. Hence the cycle of pursuit/rejection. Even though I am now aware of this cycle, I have found it to be the source of much distress and energy expenditure. So what is the remedy for breaking this apparent cycle? Letting go.

In the reckoning of my lost past relationships, I have had to learn to let go of them. I have had to let go of my attachment to my ideas of them. I have learned to accept them, not as being any better or worse, but simply different. I like to think of this acceptance as “growing our separate ways.”

Another type of acceptance is the realization that many relationships are only meant for a season. These are crucial times when paths overlap and interests are compatible.
Relationships come and go. Friends come and go. Who are we to determine, in our limited scope, the duration of such things? The important thing is to let go when a relationship has served its purpose. Who can say when that is? What about those lasting, enduring friendships that stand the test of time and change? What are the marks of a friendship?

I think that friendships, or relationships in general, are marked by relating. After all, it was common interest(s) that initiated the relationship to begin with. As long as you continue to relate with one another, there is the possibility of relationship.

Will you always relate on everything? Do you completely relate with all of your friends now? As I stated before, growth and change are inevitable. It is the compatibility of these changes which determine the course of a given relationship. Maybe you will find your friend or partner even more compatible as time goes on. Perhaps the process of growth and change will have made the relationship stronger over time.

Another hallmark of an enduring friendship is a renewed and continued interest. Both parties have to make somewhat of an effort. But this again reflects on the incentives brought on by relatability.

Trust is a key factor. In my experience, trust only comes with time and experience. But I have also had friends that I had deeply trusted betray me. It is often easier to betray those you are closest to, as you are more aware of their vulnerabilities. So even though trust is important, one can never be 100% certain of another person.

Intimacy is important. Some of my most enduring friendships have been marked by completely non-gay expressions shared between me and my male friends. This serves to affirm and re-affirm the friendship and provide ongoing feedback. I have seen this materialize organically within my closest friends.

I have discovered that some of my most satisfying friendships over the years have been marked with the uncanny ability of being able to pick up where we left off. Months or years may have passed, but when we reconnect, we have the same rapport and the friendship is easily rekindled. It is fascinating to see how we have both changed and grown throughout the years and have maintained points of contact throughout it all. And this aspect may be the most amazing part of it all; that throughout all of life’s twists and turns, we are able to connect with others, and remain connected.

I am a firm believer that one should go after what they want to experience. If you feel that you are lacking in a certain aspect of your life, or lacking in a relationship, seek it out. It may not always arrive in the package you expect, but if you are proactive in seeking what you want, you will eventually find it.