Friends for every season
THIS will sound unattractively self-centred. But when I hear good news from friends, I have two simultaneous reactions.
One is happiness for them – finally got your overseas posting/ work-life balance/ met the right guy/ conceived! The other is an instant evaluation of how these developments in their lives will impact on me.
I’ve always believed that friendships have seasons. Some are intense summer romances: two people at the same moment of life, brought together by luck and circumstance, fitting together perfectly but finitely.
Sooner or later, someone switches stage – quits, moves away, has a child – and the heat of the summer fades out into a warm, distant regard.
Over time, especially if the summer was built more on convenience and comfort than a true meeting of souls, the friendship freezes over into Facebook greetings and good thoughts.
Deeper friendships are cemented through the peaks and troughs of the seasons of life, and can endure, dormant but alive, through cold spells.
Suddenly, the stars align again to put you in the same place or at the same stage of life, and you pick up exactly where you left off.
There’s a relief in finding an old friend again, in knowing that certain souls circle one another and that life is not so cold and random all the time.
So, friendships have seasons, and when it’s me switching – propelled forward to new cities, new opportunities and, yes, new friends – I’ve always handled the change well.
But it’s a crushing feeling of vulnerability and disorientation when someone switches seasons on you. Suddenly, a wintry frost has descended on your bare, flip-flopped feet and you weren’t even aware so much time had passed.
I suffer in varying degrees. An inuring number of close friends have quit on me in the last four years, but two factors mitigate each departure. One is that often they return (not many jobs let you get up at 9 in the morning... ok, 10).
The second is that I know that their abiding interest in newsroom gossip and intrigue will keep them in my life, if only in the form of sporadic lunches and WhatsApp conversations filled with interrobangs.
Then there are the season-changers whose next stage brings new delight to my own life. I’ve experienced this with friends whose new partners I really like, but most intensely when my sister had a baby.
Sure, I’ve now felt the peculiar despair of waking up in the middle of the night to a baby screaming, and our stolen moments together are in intervals of 10 to 15 minutes, like furtive teenagers in the basement.
But her baby feels like a vestigial limb of my own. Useless at this point but a part of me nonetheless.
The worst experiences are when friends switch seasons on you with nary a backward glance. I’ve done that before to people. Your life feels like it’s shifted into a new gear, and you forget about everyone and everything that came before. You don’t notice but they do.
It happened to me once in a way that I’ve always remembered. I had a friendship of the sort that only single young adults can sustain. The kind where, as a group, everyone is completely up-to-date and overinvolved in the minutiae of everyone else’s lives.
Then, she met someone and disappeared from my life. Truth be told, it was a fairly common scenario but I noticed keenly and minded deeply, probably, for whatever reasons arising from my own state of mind, disproportionately.
I missed her, then felt angry that I did. It seemed a weakness, a defect, to be the one left behind.
I never mentioned it because I knew it wouldn’t make a difference. We could have some contrived coffees after the confrontation but it would be artificial, empty efforts, like sporting a spray-tan during the deep of winter.
The seasons change, and sometimes they leave you scrambling to catch up.
But that’s life. It’s perhaps enough to think back with fondness on our shared moment in the sun. Some friendships evolve, some fade away, and some become fossilised marvels, suspended in perfection, frozen in memory. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network