One of my first memories is of me attending a daycare that was inside a lady’s home with several other kids around my age. I don’t remember much about that daycare except that they had a dog. I was terrified of dogs and this dog looked to be as big as I was with teeth like a shark. Now that I think back, I’m pretty sure it was just a weenie dog, but it seemed like the most vicious weenie dog my four year old self had ever seen. I know what you’re thinking. There was nothing to be scared of, but I was scared of ALL dogs at that point in my life, even the small ones. When we played inside the house, the dog was kept outside and when it was time for us to go play outside, the dog came inside. It was so nice of the lady to do that to try to ease my fear, but at some point that dog and I had to cross paths and I would freak out. One of the boys in the daycare would go outside ahead of me and hold the dog while I went outside. He would take the dog inside assuring it didn’t get close to me. He did the same when it was time to for us to go inside and the dog to go out. He knew I was terrified and everyday at daycare he saved me from that scary dog. I knew I would have a friend for life.
I grew up in a tiny town where my high school graduating class had just 33 students. Seventeen of us, including myself and my daycare hero, all started Kindergarten at the same time and completed K-12 together. When we graduated high school I wasn’t sure how to survive without these people. We were all so close. My childhood best friend and I only lived about a block apart. We were at each others houses all the time! How were we all supposed to go different directions? We vowed to keep in touch all get together when we would come back and visit our hometown. But life happens, right? Distance separates you, time passes by, we all met new friends in that next chapter of life and as time went on, communication faded. Some went to college, some headed into the workforce and others joined the military.
I’m sure you can relate. I think it happens to all of us at some point in our life. Maybe it wasn’t your high school or college friends that you lost touch with. Maybe it was your previous coworkers or the church family you moved away from. I am guilty of moving on to the next phase of my life and leaving behind friendships from the previous chapters. I always have good intentions to keep in touch, but that rarely lasts long. The older I get, the more reflective I have become. I think back to high school, college, past jobs and all of the people I have crossed paths with. I think about great friendships that faded away and think about friendships that were never really friendships to begin with.
There are some friendships in life that can withstand anything. No matter the miles or the lack of communication that may span for months at a time, when you get together with that friend it’s as if you just saw them yesterday. I am grateful that over time I have found a few people like this. And although social media can give us a false sense of friendship with some people, it can also keep you connected with those far away. Just a week ago I was able to get together with my childhood best friend, the one that lived just down the road from me. Although we haven’t kept in touch like either of us intended to, anytime we do get together we just pick up right where we left off. It was so great to spend a day with her and just sit and catch up. Gosh, I’ve missed her! Friendship takes effort. Its something I am trying to make a priority in 2018. Rather than saying we should get together sometime in the future, and then carrying on and never actually making it happen, I am trying to be deliberate and schedule things. Set dates rather than make passive comments full of “maybes” and “somedays”.
There have been many friends who came into my life at the perfect time where we clicked and were inseparable. I could share my thoughts and talk out my problems with them, bounce ideas off of them and enjoyed listening to them share their life experiences with me. But at some point or another that friendship faded. Some were gradual. Perhaps one of us moved or maybe started a relationship so our girl time dwindled or maybe our ambitions just took us in different directions. A couple of friendships became toxic relationships that had a necessary ending. I anticipate these types of friendships will continue to come in and out of my life. I have learned that each one of these people played a very specific role in my story. In some way, good or bad, they helped to shape the person I am today. I have learned some hard lessons from some of these friendships. Some only felt like friendships and once they ended it was clear that it never really was. It’s sad to lose people from your life. Romantic breakups are hard, but I thinking a friendship breakup might be even harder. When I look back, funny memories fill my head, conversations we had or experiences I got to share with these people. Many of these memories bring joy. Some bring pain. But either way I’m grateful. If it wasn’t for these friendships that come and go I wouldn’t understand the value in those friendships that stick for the long haul.
My Junior year of high school we had a German foreign exchange student come for a year and stayed with a girl in my class. I don’t remember how we ended up getting to be so close during that year but by the end of it, it wasn’t just a friendship. She had become a part of our family. I am the oldest of three girls and my German friend was exactly between myself and the middle sister in age. My parents gained a 4th daughter and I gained another sister. When her year was over and she went back to her hometown in Germany I wasn’t sure where the friendship would go. I know my entire family cried like babies when she left and we all vowed to keep in touch, but do people really do that? Can a friendship remain strong when people live in two separate countries with a seven hour time difference? The answer is yes. A friendship can survive that. She has been back to visit many times, one of those was to be a bridesmaid in my wedding, and I have been to visit her once and I can’t wait to go again. In the beginning, we used email to stay in touch and if the timing worked out, we used Instant Messenger and for a special occasion, maybe a phone call. It wasn’t as easy in 1999 as it is today. Now we are able to text, call, FaceTime and follow each other on social media. Over eighteen years have passed since that tear filled day she left Texas but thanks to technology and an unbreakable bond, the friendship has withstood the test of time.
Today, I am blessed by those friendships that started when we were little kids, the ones that came along in my teenage and college years and the amazing group of women who came into my life in my twenties and thirties. My friendships with these people continue to grow and get stronger. I have come to realize the importance of friendship. We weren’t meant to go through life alone. Friends are loyal and care deeply about your inner most thoughts and feelings. You are connected in a way where they just get you. They call you out when you need it, they truly listen when you speak and they love sharing their thoughts with you as well. You can go to each other when you need advice and guidance or when you know you just need to hear the truth.
Being a good friend is much more than just hanging out and having fun. It’s about connection. Knowing that they have your back and you have theirs. Knowing they will give you truth and encouragement and catch you when you fall. They only want the best for you and you only want the best for them. You encourage them and lift them up. Never tearing each other down.
I hope that you have experienced friendships like the ones I have. Its not too late to reach out to one of those long lost friends. Try calling rather than a social media outlet. Or better yet, plan a time to get together face to face. Life is precious. Hang on to those that mean the most.