We all promise we won’t lose touch. Friends forever. You’re like my brother. My sister. I won’t be gone for that long. We’re not going to change that much. I met a lot of people along the way and very few measured up to the idea I carried with me of the friends I made in adolescence and college. Eventually, I came to realize how narrow my thinking had been. The kind of limited thinking that leads to further isolation. Over the years I’ve met people just as good as my old buddies. But that doesn’t mean they’ll ever take the place of those first, best friends. Unless there is a betrayal or another form of irreversible falling out, those people exist in your memory as lighthouses guiding your mind to better times.
Our freedom and our travel pushes us away from the people we leave. They aren’t left behind, not in a negative sense, but there is a separation there. Experiences formed with new people in new places. We live our lives and the world does its work on us until we become alien to the people who knew us. We learn strange things. Different languages. Different places. Different ways of thinking.
We end or leave the things that bonded us together—geography, college, a city, a job—and start again. The people in those new places fill voids, and you compare them to your old, trusted, loyal friends. Until you recognize that they’ll never fill that void and stop with the comparisons. You’ll never meet the same person twice. If you think you have, just give it a minute. We like to compare people just like we compare places. It gives us a reference point. But it’s reductive and limiting to think like this.
The life you want is almost never what someone else wants.“If I could see all my friends tonight.” We do get together sometimes. It happens now at weddings and occasionally other random reunions, and it’s one of the great joys in my life, to get a big group of friends together. That’s the most I can ask for, and the best I’ll ever get.
I wish I could have both. I wish I could have the domestic life with my old friends that we’d want to escape and I wish I could have the life I have that I don’t want to escape but is far from my friends. I chose the latter and gave up something big.