I have a vague recollection from my 21st birthday of me standing on a restaurant chair, balancing precariously in my candy pink stillettos and declaring: “I’m going to be at all your twenty firsts and all your kids’ twenty firsts”.
I can tell you now, aged 30. I wasn’t and I won’t be. Perhaps with the exceptions of my best mate’s sons and another close friend from high school. The group of people I was sharing my life with on that day aren’t the same people that shared the journey into my late 20s. Not even the boyfriend (we broke up about a week later) and you know what, though it crushed me at the time, I’m really glad it happened.
A little while ago, a friend made me aware that we hadn’t been invited to a couple of events held by mutual acquaintances. Two to three years ago, that knowledge may have completely devastated me…ok yes, it would have devastated me. I’m sure it upset my friend but I hope I helped put their mind at ease a little.
I can see the reasons why we weren’t invited and it’s not because we’re not liked or valued (if it is, that’s their issue) it’s because the contribution we’ve had to the lives of these people isn’t of the significance the event calls for. That doesn’t mean our contribution to their lives is or has been insignificant, but say in the case of a wedding etc you’d want people around you that had been central and supportive to the relationship. If I’ve never said more than hi to your intended, well… I wouldn’t expect to take a seat at your wedding. In fact, I’ve declined wedding reception invitations based on that fact. I’ll always try to come and see the vows though because to me that’s far more important than eating a meal.
Again, standing in front of a crowd of people, some my best friends in the world. I’m twelve and my class of ~30 are leaving the comfort and security of our little private primary school and heading off to high school. Amongst the prayers, the singing, awards and well-wishing, Mr Thornhill, my year 6 teacher gave us some advice to take with us on our new journey. There was something about being a people person – caring for others, being invested. Then, (in my memory anyway), he taught us this. Maybe he didn’t and my memory is hazy (it was 1993 after all) but it’s the sort of thing he would have said:
I’m nowhere near as spiritual as I was at 21 so if you’re sitting watching this video and thinking “what a load of…” well maybe I understand a little, but hear me out.
Personally, I don’t think it’s quite as clear-cut as the video makes out and you never know at the time anyway. Social media aside, nobody sits around sorting friends into groups! It’s a lesson that you realise down the track along with “Why did I ever date so and so, what a complete twit!” 😉 The lesson of course being, “Yeah, he/she was a disaster but I learnt/discovered this from it.”
Reason friends are pretty easy to spot because in my own experience it’s rare to see them again once the spark goes. These can be fast moving, intense friendships. Someone may need an ear or a helping hand to get through a rough time. They might be sick and you share time together as they recover. You might unite over an interest or because one of you has something to gain or learn from another. Your world may revolve around this person and when they leave or you leave it may devastate one or both of you, but you know later you have learnt a lesson (good or bad) from the relationship and that where-ever the person may be now, you are changed for having had them a part of your life.
Season friends are those you share an extended experience with. Things like high school, college or working together perhaps. You see each other regularly and get along well as you have a shared common experience. Then through no fault of either of you, the two of you may drift apart. Summer may be over and the parties have gotten further between. People have left school, have different jobs or had a complete lifestyle change. You don’t not like those people anymore, its just that the environment or shared interest has changed and it’s not as easy to find common ground. For some friends that’s the end of the story. Others manage to bridge the gap into the new situation. I know of many people that felt isolated after leaving school etc. I did, and that’s where I find social media to be such a godsend.
I believe that season and lifetime intertwine and that it’s rare for you to have a true ‘lifetime’ friend beside perhaps your partner. My own perception is that season friends (for example old workmates or college friends who you know for a short period of time, usually through a shared experience) can loop. You may not see them for many years and then they come into your life again for another season. It may be that you now have children of the same age, they’re ill, getting married or it’s reunion time etc. They may turn into lifetime friends that you’re not going to be apart from again, or you may have another extended season, then casually drift off again for a while as your tastes and needs change again. Think about some of your strongest friendships. I know that I can see this pattern with some of mine.
Maybe some people just don’t like us as much as we thought they did. I know I’m certainly not innocent in hoping some people got the hint somewhere along the track. At the same time I’m sometimes glad later that they didn’t, as the friendship moves into another ‘season’. I always try to remember how it feels to be alone and wonder what went wrong and I do try to be as kind as I can.
Hopefully you do the same.
For anyone really struggling with loneliness or a changed social situation out there, please try to remember these things:
- You are NOT alone.
- You ARE great and you are NOT worthless.
- For everyone that can’t be bothered spending time with you there’s someone that would love to.
- You wouldn’t*really* want to stay friends with everyone you ever met… Surely? You’d never have any time to yourself!
And the most important thing of all – a bucket of icecream and Johnny Depp (or the equivalent female version of Johnny Depp) almost always helps. Especially when shared with a new friend.
Best wishes, Kell =)