Friendships, long-distance friendships, friendships through college, friends, friends, friends...
No one really talks about maintaining friendships as an adult, especially when those friendships start in younger years. I don't know anyone who is the same person they were ten years ago. Or fifteen years ago. So friendships have to evolve, too.
I was the friend that stayed in state for college. Almost all of my friends left. Most of them came from a more privileged place and went to some wonderful schools. Schools that were out of my financial ability even with scholarships etc. When I started college, I had my boyfriend and one friend left here. By the way, I adore that friend--my point is that my friend base was very small at that time.
The thing is, when you stay, it feels like nothing is changing. It is, but you don't see it the same as someone who has moved states and is away from their family and--in so many ways--starting a whole new life. I'm speaking as the one who stayed (I want to say "stayed behind," because that's how it used to feel, but that's not correct), but I can guess that those who leave feel similarly--that they have moved on and the others have not.
I worried that I would become obsolete as a friend. I would be replaced by newer, better friends.
And in many ways, that happened--the obsolete part.
Friends would visit and at first it was like nothing changed. We would spend time together and chat as if there had never been space between us. We kept up talking while they were gone, too.
But things changed. Friends would visit but it would get harder to see them--they had other people they needed to see like family (which is totally understandable, btw) or they had video game parties to do or movies to see. And every time that happened, it felt as if another piece of me was pulled from their lives.
The thing about going away--from an onlooker viewpoint--is that you are immersed in the newness. You meet new people through your dorm. You bond. All things that make complete sense.
I, like others who "stay," didn't have that. For the first part of college, I made no new friends. I worked and schooled and the classes were big enough and people inconsistent enough that bonding over school was difficult. That changed, later, when I got into my specific program, and I gained some wonderful friends, one of whom is still a best friend to this day.
But back to long-distance friendships. I began to feel like I was the one who needed these friendships more than my friends. They would be fine without me; I was not sure I would be without them. When college was done, it became harder. New jobs, new lives, new people.
I tried to stay relevant in their lives. I did this by trying to push the things that used to keep us close. For one friend that was writing related things. And when I tried to do those things, tried to keep the bond through them, I found she didn't have time for it. At that time, so much of the friendship had become social media based that I saw how much time she had through her social media--Now, I know that social media is not the truth. You can't rely on what you see there. That was an assumption I made, and probably incorrectly. But back then all I saw was "I don't have time for you, but I have time for these other people and friends and hobbies and this other life of mine."
Maybe I should have said something about how I felt back then.
She was there for me when I needed to talk about something major going on, which I will always appreciate. But here again is where I felt the disconnect between how I needed her vs how she needed me. I needed her for those talks. She did not need me in the same way. She had others for that. I was there if she needed it, but she never did. And eventually that odd dynamic does odd things to a relationship.
Eventually the I-don't-have-time changed into disinterest due to other circumstances--which makes complete sense, honestly. What would have been good for me to have done then was find another way to bond, if there was one.
Instead I took it to heart and felt more like I was the only one who wanted to keep the friendship going. And maybe I was. People change. Relationships change. Or maybe I was just insecure by seeing how much love and joy and time she had for others and feeling like I no longer fit into that. Her behaviors changed--I was negatively subtweeted about between her and her other friends, ignored if I asked about it, and her responses towards me shifted pretty intensely.
Maybe that was a sign that she was done.
I felt as if I were not good enough to be her friend. This feeling was the result of comments she had made, and, I'm sure, some of my own insecurities as well. And that is shitty feeling. Maybe I should have been done then; maybe I should have spoken up.
Instead of speaking up, I stayed quiet. I'm sure I became unpleasant. Those weren't my intentions, but I'm sure I did things that hurt her too.
But we never discussed it. She never said anything about how I made her feel, and neither did I.
I tend to be a bottle-it-up and harden your exterior kind of person, especially back then. Which, might I add, I do not suggest.
I think long-distance friendships can be difficult. I think particularly in the college years and after. I have some wonderful friendships--some that are years and years in the making, one that is almost my whole life time, others that are newer. They are two sided friendships, and they are friendships that can handle miscommunications and talking, really talking. I reconnected with a friend recently, and it's been wonderful. The solution, in my opinion, to our past issues? Communication. Open communication about how we feel.
I wish we had more books that covered these sort of topics. Those who leave and those who stay. It's a theme that doesn't fit into my current projects, and so here it is as a blogpost.
If you're preparing to leave for college or to stay, or maybe you already have done one or the other, I hope this helps. To those that leave: your friends are terrified they will be forgotten in your new life. To those that stay: you are not "staying behind," you are not stagnant. You are changing, things are changing, it just may not be as obvious. And I hope if you have friendships that sound anything like some of what I have described that you will talk about your feelings and make those friendships as strong as you can--and if that's not meant to be, then I hope you know it's okay that some things are not meant to grow and that's okay.