I spent this weekend wandering around a city where my good friend lives. I didn’t see him while I was there though. I actually haven’t spoken to him in a few years. We’ve lost touch and reaching out at this point would have felt strange. I was there for a music festival with another friend and as we drove, I remembered him, this friend I’ve lost touch with, and I wondered how he was. I wondered where his house was, or if I would run into him. I wondered if his family was ok and if he still looked the same. We drove to and from the festival, and I wondered how the people of our past can continue to be a part of us.
Even when we say we’ve lost touch, do we ever really lose touch? Don’t the people we meet, however briefly, affect us in a way that changes us, and we carry that change with us?
I always hated saying goodbye to new friends at the end of summer camp, and the end of the school year and at graduations and after mission trips. I wanted to keep an email chain going with everyone so that none of us ever had to say goodbye. We could all just keep in touch forever. Of course by now I’ve realized this is impossible. What usually happens is you make promises to keep in touch, you sign each other’s yearbooks and then make 3 or 4 phone calls, write a couple of emails, send an un-returned text, and it’s done. You sort of putter out. And this, I’ve come to realize, is ok.
Because not everyone you cross paths with is meant to be on your journey for the long haul. My friend from above was pivotal for me at the time I knew him. We learned from each other and did our best to keep in touch and then years later I can drive around his city and smile and not feel bad about not texting him to let him know I’m in town. We’re living our lives. We remember each other. It’s enough.
Then, there are friends who stick with you regardless of your pitiful keeping-in-touch efforts. I have a wonderful friend I talk to on the phone maybe twice a year. We’ve lived at least a couple of countries apart for most of our adult lives, yet neither of us feels like we’re puttering out. We know we are meant to be on each other’s journeys for the long haul even if that looks like an annual, rushed “I’m running through the airport, just wanted to say hey” kind of phone call.
Some relationships stick, while others, even with the greatest efforts, just don’t. I believe this is for a reason. I believe friendship should be as natural as possible. If you’re struggling with maintaining a relationship you know is doomed to putter out, don’t beat yourself up about it. If we continued every friendship we’ve ever made, we would live an impossibly exhausting social life. Gently let go of the ones who you know are fading away. And gently, with gratitude, hold onto those resilient ones.