I ran into a high school classmate a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking about some things–mostly friendships and the people I’ve come to know throughout my life.
The fact that I ran into someone from high school probably seems pretty unremarkable, except for the fact that we hadn’t seen each other in 10 years and we just happened to bump into each other in a National Park 1,500 miles from where we grew up–exceptionally remarkable in my opinion.
My husband and I had just finished eating lunch in the park and were on our way to do some more hiking when I saw someone who looked incredibly familiar sitting on a bench. I was surprised to see that she held my gaze and looked back at me with a quizzical look that was probably similar to what was plastered on my face. Almost simultaneously we spoke one another’s names, in complete disbelief that we could actually be who the other thought we were.
In that moment, the world wasn’t just small, it had very nearly collapsed in on itself. How was such a chance meeting possible? How could all of our life-decisions and random choices over the past decade lead us both to that precise place at the exact same time?
Nothing spectacular came of that brief encounter, other than the fact that it was great to see and catch up with someone from my past, but it really got me thinking about how important each and every relationship we make is, because in a lot of ways, people don’t really come and then go from our lives. However briefly or casually we know someone, there’s an opportunity for us to leave an imprint on the people we meet. Here are a few things I came to realize:
Old Friendships Are So Important
Truth be told, this girl and I weren’t close friends in high school; we’d had a few classes together, but were really nothing more than good acquaintances. So why when I saw her did I feel such a strong connection and have such a keen interest in her life? I think it’s because the older I get, the more I realize there’s something special about the people who knew us when we were young.
I’ve had some great friends since I’ve left home (many I probably I don’t deserve), but none of my friendships have been quite like the ones I had as a teenager. There’s something different about the friendships we make when we are unencumbered by jobs, bills, or preoccupations with serious boyfriends. I look back on my high school friendships with something close to reverence when I think of how easy and fun and pure they were. We talked about anything and everything. We shared our innermost secrets without fear of judgment. We literally played in the streets together.
“Hanging Out” is different when you grow up, especially once you have kids, careers, and a mortgage. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great, but it’s not the same as sleeping-over at my best friend’s, or eating pizza on my roof while imagining our futures, or laughing hysterically while we’d TP houses, or singing at the top of our lungs to an awesome mixed-tape in a crappy car.
Seeing this old friend instantly took me back to a simpler time in my life, a time (and people) I didn’t realize I missed so much. It made me realize I need to make more of an effort to reconnect with the people I grew up with.
Some Friends Are Irreplaceable
I haven’t always been a good friend. In fact, in the last month I’ve apologized to three friends from my past for being a totally crap friend. Whether it was due to a boyfriend, moving a lot, being lazy, or because I was selfish, I’ve taken many of my friendships for granted and neglected to invest the time and devotion to them that I should have.
One thing I failed to realize is that some friends are irreplaceable.
I’ve moved a lot in the years since I left home, and each place we lived I mistakenly assumed I could meet people, move on, and just make new friends to take the place of the old ones. The last place we lived, I didn’t feel super attached to too many people; we had some great friends and a lot of good acquaintances that I knew I would miss–but more of a “casual” miss, not a pining “can’t live without you” kind of miss.
You can imagine my surprise when I realized just how badly I really missed some of those people! Once we got into our new house in a new town in a new state, friendless and lonely, it finally hit me that we’d actually come across some once-in-a-lifetime sorta friends; people whose kindness and laughter and connection would be hard to replace. I instantly regretted all those nights I politely declined evenings out so that I could curl-up on the couch to binge-watch Lost, or the times I knew a friend of mine needed help but I assumed someone else would take care of it, or all of the times I meant to call but had something more important to do.
People Remember The Person We Were
Even though I didn’t know that old acquaintance all that well, I was surprised to find I remembered quite a bit about her. She was loud and opinionated, but always kind to the people in our classes. She smiled a lot, had a bubbly personality, and was really easy to like. I also remembered she was the one person I knew who carried a Bible around with her to class; I only saw her with it open a handful of times, but somehow I still remember that, maybe because it said a lot about who she was. I wasn’t surprised when she told me that she was in that National Park on a church trip with her congregation.
It just goes to show that even when we think people aren’t watching us, they are, and it’s humbling to imagine what subtle nuances about ourselves people will recall years from now. What do the friends I’ve made and the people I’ve met remember about me? In some cases, I think they will be largely positive recollections; in others, there will be unsavory memories and cold flashbacks.
When it comes to most things, I don’t really care what people think of me, but it breaks my heart to think people would remember me as unkind or uncaring–or a bad friend.
Perhaps the biggest regrets of my short life have to do with the friends I’ve treated poorly and the relationships I unintentionally allowed to unravel.
It All Comes Back To Us
The fact that people can all of a sudden reappear in our lives despite long absences made me realize that life is a big friggin’ circle–no matter how hard we try, things come back to us. I wholeheartedly believe that we reap what we sow, we receive in equal measure what we put out into the world; all things will eventually come full circle. It may not happen right away, it may even take a decade, but if we never truly escape the people and places from our past, what makes us think we could outrun the good or evil we project through our choices and actions?
If I was ever a crap friend to you, I’m sorry. I’m working on becoming humble enough to recognize and apologize when I’ve been a butt hole. I’m slowly beginning to realize that there’s nothing in the world more important than the relationships we form and cultivate.
The moral of the story is cherish every friendship you have the privilege of making. Don’t take your friendships for granted; people move, life is short. It takes consistent time and effort to get close to someone. Be dependable. Listen closely to the important things they tell you, and pay attention to the subtle struggles they may try very hard to keep from you. Make new friends. Call your old friends. Reach out to those who are lonely, and give your heart to the people who’ve proven they can be trusted with it. Be the kind of person that others will be proud to have known. Do good. And if you’re sweet enough to consider me your friend, thanks 🙂