Some go, some stay: summer thoughts on friendship

“We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet.
Even longer,’ Pooh answered.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

For those living abroad, summer comes with high expectations and mixed feelings. Holidaying home is a trip down Memory Lane, a well deserved resting bubble and the perfect time to catch up with old friends. Sometimes, though, that comes with the unpleasant realisation that friendship, as love, can’t always stay afloat despite time, distance and life itself. Shared memories can take a relationship only so far. At some point, they start to fade and you need to infuse new life, new moments spent together, future commitments to see each other to take the whole thing to the next stage.

(Photo: public domain)

(Photo: public domain)

I lost many of my youth friends on the way. They still sit among my sleeping Facebook contacts, those whose name is solidly present on the list without having properly interacted in the past decade. We see each other’s posts and recent pictures. We sometimes struggle to recognize that boy/girl we had so much fun with between thinning hairlines and new wrinkles. We think we’ll write a message, just to catch up. Then we never do it because there’s another life happening. Now.

I don’t know if it’s a women’s prerogative but we can’t seem to keep our friends for a lifetime. Men tend to hang out forever with their primary school classmates and rarely form deep, profound friendship after a certain age. Women’s friendship is a different world: new friends keep coming into a woman’s life till her last breath and naturally some get lost on the way.

Women give generously to their friends, they discuss everything: from mundane occupations to the most heartbreaking moments in life. They nurture friendship as a form of love. As love, it’s not always time-proof.

Someone told me once that marrying a foreigner is a statement. It means telling the world you weren’t so comfortable, after all, with those people you grew up with. It might be true, in a certain way, for mixed couples tend to have the best time together while they often struggle with same-nationality partners. What’s certain is that the only “old friends” I kept so far are those living abroad, or married to a foreigner. We don’t need many words or long written catch-ups. A message here and there will do it. We know how our lives are.

As someone who grows attached to everybody and can’t imagine to change hairdresser or doctor, I can’t but feel sorry for the others, every time I am reminded of how much time has passed since we drank lemonades together on the beach, dreaming of our future. But I am learning the 30s lesson here: you have to let go of the past. Some friends go, some stay, some will eventually come back, at a different stage of life and some new will come to cheer you up.

You can’t make everyone happy and at some point you might have to cut branches, in order to become who you are. Yet, I still have to deal with the random nostalgia.

Have you been able to nurture old friendships while living abroad? How?I’d love to hear your stories.

13 comments

  1. Lovely post, and it is something I think about a lot. Some friendships endure, others naturally fizzle out as if by mutual ‘agreement’, and sometimes one party is more keen to disconnect than the other one. Moving around a lot as we do/have done, adds a whole different dimention.

    If you want a short story about friendships, and in particular, my ‘oldest’ friend, here it is:
    http://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/you-cant-make-old-friends/

  2. Could it be it depends on the friendships? I am a fiercely loyal friend and very skilled at keeping in touch. I have friendships (like the one with Sue) that have stayed intact through time and distance. Same for some childhood friends. I mourn every lost friendship but I had to learn to accept that, like all relationships, some friendships end, like you say. We just grow apart. There are times and places for certain people, I suppose.

  3. I’m generally pretty terrible at keeping in touch so the people I stay friends with are the ones who understand that friendship with me may be 3-4 e-mails a year and a two-day visit. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but it is what it is.

    Thanks for the well-written, insightful post.

      1. I do tend to be better with friends the closer they are to me but I’m such a solitary person. I’m quite content alone which I think contributes to my disconnect with friends. And when compounded by distance…

      1. We do a mix of email, Facebook, and the very occasional call and each time I am back in the States try to fit in one or two. I have also been lucky to have a few people visit me here and I have met friends in other countries when I travel too. I don’t have kids (for the time being), so I try to be as flexible as possible. That said this handful of people really is about 5 so that means it is more possible.

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