I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships (the non-romantic kind). The reason being that over the last several days, I’ve had the opportunity to see several old friends whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. It got me thinking about how much — or little — I value and invest in relationships, and why.
I wrote earlier about how I ran into former colleagues at the FAWN launch event. Friday, I Skyped with a girlfriend I met during my semester abroad in London before attending my college apartment-mate Janelle’s bridal shower. And Friday night and Saturday afternoon, I got to see my high school friends Alex, Jackie and Melissa who were back home for the weekend.
After we graduated from Biola, most of my friends either got married or moved away for work and grad school. My close group of friends — happily self-coined the “Lit Wits” — was no exception. Janelle and I spent a wonderful semester together with Ariel and Meli (more on her later) in our apartment, discussing literature, playing Super Smash Brothers, pulling all-nighters, and dreaming about the future. But after we left Biola, Janelle moved up to Northern California to pursue a new job and a new living situation. And of course, as often happens in life, she met, fell in love with and got engaged to the man who is now her fiancé.
I had spent the afternoon comfortably at home, enjoying the soothing pitter patter of the rain and the sound of the tree lightly battering the side of our house. Every so often, the sky outside my shuttered window would flash with lightning, followed by a low, deep rumble of thunder.
Because rain in SoCal is so rare, I really enjoy the way the raindrops bounce sporadically off the asphalt, the various shades of gray streaked and puffy across the sky. And I especially love the day after, when the air smells clean and the sky becomes a cloudless blue. But rainy days always put me in a strange, surreal mood — the same mood I had when I left the house for Janelle’s bridal shower.
We gathered in a large side room at El Torito. I don’t think I’ve been there since high school. Out of all of Janelle’s friends, I only knew two — my friend Sara and my former apartment-mate Meli. I hadn’t seen Meli since we graduated, but you know someone is a good friend when you can just pick up where you left off (though I regret not doing a better job staying in touch).
As we tucked into tacos and celebrated Janelle’s upcoming wedding, we caught up on all that we had missed over the last few years: the way Meli providentially fell into teaching, the impact she’s able to have on her students, the way that God has blessed her with her own place. And we happily reminisced about our memorable university days.
Bridal showers aren’t really conducive to spending time with the bride-to-be, since everyone is vying for her coveted attention, but it was still really fun to be back together, the four of us (Ariel being there in spirit; I always represent the both of us), again.
I did experience a pang of…I’m not sure how to articulate it. The feeling that the people I used to count as peers have all moved on with their lives, while I seem to be — or perceive myself to be — falling behind. I’m beginning to really hate that feeling.
Cake eaten and presents opened, I reluctantly said my goodbyes and left El Torito. I have about seven good friends from high school who have managed to stay in contact and get together whenever people are in town. I picked up Jackie and Alex and drove us down to Tebo Tebo, the most happening, teenage-packed teahouse in Westminster late on a Friday night.
Jackie had worked a 12-hour shift before driving several hours to Orange County, so she was pretty tired. But we managed to put away a super saccharine “Paris in a Box” brick toast with strawberries, bananas, custard cream and chocolate syrup. Plus drinks. We stayed until Tebo Tebo closed at 2 AM, and I realized the next morning that I’m getting way too old to stay out that late.
Even though we’re all more educated and more mature, it felt like a small taste of our high school days, with Jackie half-awake in the booth, inserting random, non-sensical comments into the conversation and Alex talking excitedly about the latest books and movies she’s been into. At other times, it seemed we had really grown up, chattering away about serious things like work schedules, sleep patterns, future plans, conflict resolution, and dating relationships. It’s amazing to think we’ve been together since junior high.
Saturday morning, I went over to Elizabeth’s to see Alex and another high school friend Melissa, back from Northern California. I hadn’t seen Melissa for several months, and we had a lot of catching up to do. But as we sat together on the couch, chatting and laughing together, I was thinking about how comfortable it felt, as though we had just seen each other the week before.
All of this meeting up with old friends got me thinking about how blessed I am to have had these various people in my life. People who have cared about me and gone through trials and tribulations with me. People who aren’t the least bit fazed by my random outbursts and neurotic ticks. Even earlier that day, I had spent a couple hours on Skype with my friend Karen. Even though we’ve only seen each other a couple times face-to-face since I left Roehampton in London, I feel like I can tell her almost anything. She’s one of several friends I have in Malaysia, Singapore, and England who are a constant source of support and encouragement for me.
And yet, despite all of these relationships, I often feel alone, isolated. I’m often told that I seem like a very social “people person” who never wants for friends; on the other hand, I frequently find myself (half-) joking that “I hate people.” I enjoy spending time with the people I care about and appreciate the longevity of those friendships, but at the same time, I often view friends as disposable, coming and going so frequently I hardly notice any more. I talk freely about my thoughts and feelings and opinions but struggle to trust others, to show them my true self. I’m a walking conundrum.
Reuniting with old friends always brings up these conflicting emotions for me. But I’m thankful for the friends I have managed to hang on to. I realize I’m not always the best friend; they’re just very patient with me. I hope that as I grow older, I’ll somehow learn how to really value these precious people in my life.