Friends for ev­ery sea­son

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By RACHEL CHANG

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

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