I caught Rachel Bertsche’s Oy!Chicago article, “The friend breakup aftermath,” and it propelled me to talk about my own struggle with friend “breakups.” However, I’d like to offer a counter perspective.
The old cliché goes that some friendships are meant to exist during certain periods in our lives. They help us grow and then we set them free when they no longer serve a purpose for us. Friends inevitably diverge; friends outgrow each other; friends grown damn tired of each other. All of these reasons for the “breakup” are relevant, normal, usually healthy and inevitable parts of our lives.
As Bertsche humorously pointed out, we treat these ex-friends like ex-lovers and dodge them in restaurants. I’ve also been known to dodge ex-friends at movie theaters, in ladies’ bathrooms and in the grocery store. We’re afraid of having the obligatory, “How’s life?” conversations when we either: A) Could care less, or B) Resent them for not caring less.
As with romantic relationships, friendships suffer under the weight of new hobbies, long-distance communication and sheer neglect. I’ve seen many a childhood friendship perish for these reasons, as many of us do in our lifetime. Perhaps, it’s the fishbowl that is Facebook, that makes us painfully aware of how these childhood friends are now passing through major life milestones such as marriage and having children, and we’re not there to really witness and share in their joy…and their hardships.
How is it that these cherished slumber party pals that we shared our hopes and dreams with, cheek to pillow, no longer qualify for a role in a future that we schemed with them?
What if we want to make up? Is it too late? Can there be a part-deux to a friendship story? In some cases yes, in others, it’s nearly impossible. And, the difficulty of the makeup is not necessarily proportionate to the reason for the breakup.
A childhood friend and I “broke up” due largely to distance and neglect. I recently learned that she experienced a family loss, and I had an unexplainable urge to drop everything, find her and hug the pain away, but I couldn’t. Too much time, too much distance, too much… I sent an e-mail, and words failed me greatly.
There are some friends you know (or knew) almost as well as you know yourself, and when they are suffering, the empathy pains are magnified in ways you cannot anticipate. I want to be part of her grief because I used to be part of her life, but I can’t.
Perhaps it’s a selfish desire to intervene at this time and I recognize that, but it comes from a longtime desire to know her again.
We sometimes drift from friends because of petty reasons that seem to matter when we’re younger... I want to get to know this friend all over again, here and now.
Dare I say it: I would welcome an awkward run-in.