The most surprising part of adulthood, for me, has been the occasional impermanence of friendships. At 17, I very much expected that my favorite then-friends then would be among my best friends forever. Though that inevitably and quickly was proven false, I still haven’t readjusted my expectations for my friends-in-the-moment. I am still caught off guard when my favorite now-friendships go sour or fade away, and I still don’t quite know how to handle it.
The fade away is the easier of the two, though sadder. This is a much longer list, and pays its dues to geographical distance, busyness, changing interests, and lack of time. With all the time in the world, most of these friendships would still be stronger; but in reality, most of us have to choose between cultivating a handful or two of good, strong friendships and a few dozen superficial friendships. And even so, past a certain age (26?), it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with all the people you’ve had a good connection with. There is a lost potential in the fade away that makes it tough, but no guilt or real regret. These are people you know you could still have a good time with, if only you could find the night or weekend or week to do so in.
Soured friendships are harder. If there is a reason for your “break-up,” it’s harder to move past the friendship, and to cultivate love and forgiveness. The reasons for the break-up are often silly, or hard to identify. And different people can give you wildly divergent advice on how to handle these relationships. My parents, whom I admire greatly, will always counsel complete forgiveness: “Be not too hard, for life is short and nothing is given to man.” Or, less elegantly, get over it. My aunt, whom I also admire greatly, suggests nearly the opposite–that life is too short to spend time on drama and negativity, and that a worthwhile friend will always meet you halfway. My philosophy, I think, falls someplace in the middle. Forgiveness is important, if only for yourself; but so is only pouring your energy into friends and friendships that are willing to do the same. But always leave an open door, just in case.
Either way, I think, there is love left in the space that the friendship used to hold. Or, at least, that’s what I hope.