Sunday, August 28, 2005

Old Friends...and new friends

A good friend of mine from college is in town for the weekend to visit. It's funny...she and I haven't seen each other in over a year, and yet it's almost as if no time has passed. Those are the types of friends I enjoy the most. True, people have all sorts of types of friends: work friends, neighborhood friends, childhood friends (perhaps), school friends, friends from college, acquaintances who are a bit more than just that, and on and on. And different kinds of friends require different levels of attention, different amounts of interaction. Some friends you want to get to know better to deepen the friendship. Some you'd rather the friendship didn't go as deep as it does. Many come and go as you try each other out and veer off on different paths. But the friends that really matter, to me, are those that don't require a lot of "strategic care." The kind that know you well from years past, who accept you for who you are and continue to accept the new choices you make, and who put forth the effort to stay in touch despite the distances that life create over time.

When I was young, I used to think that more friends equaled a higher status (didn't we all?), and though I had a small inner circle of "close friends," I prided myself on knowing as many people as I could. Those people I knew were generally considered "friends" in my mind. I continue to be one who enjoys knowing many people from different social circles that I'm involved with in my life. I guess getting older has taught me an important difference between "friends," "acquaintances," and simply "people I know." I enjoy each subgroup for different reasons: sometimes it's nice and refreshing to be in a group of people who don't really know me all that well...because then I have the mystery of discovering people's stories and they have the option of pursuing the mystery of who I am. But at other times, it's nice to be among people who know me so well that I don't always have to talk. We can just enjoy each other's company because there are times when there's simply nothing to be said.

I explored new parts of downtown today with such a friend as that. It was fun to hear her stories from her year, and it was fun to catch her up to speed with my own stories. I enjoy reflection of past experiences, and this is another type of reflection I suppose. As I told her things, I tended to see old experiences in new ways. What's great about a friend like her is that I could then share those new revelations and she appreciated them as well!

I wish that all relationships could be as simple as that. No drama involved, no judgment, no pressure to conform to something I'm not. As a young girl, I used to dream of the day when we all "grew up" and all of that drama and judging and peer pressure disappeared, and what was left was healthy, mature, "adult" relationships. Well, I'm 24, and still waiting. Though 24 is a young age, somehow I don't see myself ever getting to that childhood dream-place. Friendships (all of them) take time, care, and love. I guess I'm realizing that some are more worth my time and energy than others, some are more rewarding than others, and some take energy that I'd rather not give but I'm not sure how to avoid. I'm also realizing that the friendships I most enjoy are those that have developed over many years, and that have room left to grow and change and strengthen. However, that's not to say that I will stop meeting new people and making new friends and dealing with new bouts of friendship drama. The old friends and I went through that phase already. The new friends have no chance of becoming those worthwhile friends in my life unless we reach that drama.

The old Girl Scout song that sings, "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other gold," is a total cliche but, like most cliches, is completely true. Old friends are gold. Valuable. Long-lasting. Can weather (and indeed *have* weathered) the storm. New friends are silver. Not quite as valuable as gold, but still worth the work to find. In the end, we all own a little gold and a little silver. They complete different parts of our wardrobe. And we all have a few old friends, and perhaps more than a few new friends. They complete different parts of our life.

Here's to old friends and new friends (red friends and blue friends?) and their separate, but equally important, places in our lives.

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