Building Bonds and Losing Bonds: What 18 Years of Friendship Have Taught Me About Time

As kids we often believe in forever friendships.

 

I remember going to Claire’s with my childhood best friend and buying matching necklaces: you know the ones with the split love heart or the lock and key. We had secrets that no one was even aware of and had planned our entire futures together- this included everything from what I would wear (as the maid of honour) at her wedding, to when we would have our children, so that they could be best friends and carry on our legacy. I suppose I admire that child-like innocence where everything seemed permanent. But growing up means facing the reality of permanence and how very little it actually means. Growing up means outgrowing people you love, which can actually be quite a beautiful thing.

 

Admittedly, I wasn’t surprised when Uni brought along the death of old friendships, as when I had changed schools- to complete my A levels- I almost immediately lost contact with people that I thought I’d have in my life forever. That was my first memorable experience of losing close bonds; it was completely unfathomable to me that people (who I’d seen nearly every day for five years) could cut me off so easily. And frankly, I resented them for it, for a very long time. It had scared me to the point where I was too afraid to form new friendships and I shrank into a bubble of isolation. But, after a lengthy conversation with my French tutor, I realised that losing people was a part of life. We often associate loss with death, but loss takes many forms, such as with friendships. We don’t live our lives awaiting death, thus I decided to take the same approach with friends; I couldn’t stop myself from creating new bonds because I feared losing them.

 

Therefore, when I had my last assembly before coming to Uni- just before lockdown- I was prepared to lose a lot of friends and start again during my first year. Be that as it may, I can confidently say that losing a bond, knowing that you’re losing that bond, and feeling that bond weaken, is genuinely one of the worst experiences one can go through.

 

The first friend that I’d realised I had lost, in the haze of Uni, did come as a shock. We were close to the extent where she would be one of the first people I would run to with any slightest inconvenience. I thought that because we were so close, she was genuinely helping me, but over time I began to realise that she was just helping herself. Every conversation we had that started with my problem always evolved into a conversation about hers. Now I don't know if she did this as a way to relate to me, but when your friend comes crying to you about the boy who broke her heart, the last thing you do is gloat about the boy who sends you love letters and flowers, you know? It started gradually, but I knew the friendship was over when the last conversation we had involved me contemplating the idea of leaving Uni and going home (because I was having a really hard time) and she never even thought to check in on me. That didn’t mean that she hadn’t given me great memories and it didn’t mean that she was a bad person. It just meant that we outgrew the need for each other.

 

The next one was more painful because it was probably my fault. I got so caught up with Uni that I neglected her at a time when she probably needed me the most. It's worth mentioning that when I say ‘caught up’ I don’t just mean getting blackout drunk every other night, but genuinely dealing with everything that Uni impacted, such as my mental health. Nevertheless, we lost a connection that could’ve easily been maintained with a bit more effort on both our parts. We still talk, and I know that if we went out for lunch tomorrow it wouldn’t feel completely different. It’s just not quite the same.

 

But making new friends is equally as hard. Making new friends means putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Making new friends means socialising even when your social timer has reached zero. And if you’re anything like me: an individual that enjoys their own company a lot of the time, you may worry about being labelled ‘anti-social.’ I had this chronic fear that I would say no once and then everyone would forget that I even existed- whilst they were making lifelong bonds I would be stuck, forever in quarantine. One night, when I was probably at my lowest, I decided to stay in. Granted, I did still feel like I missed out, especially as they spilled all the tea to me the following day, but I didn’t regret that decision. I needed the time to recuperate and recharge my social battery so I could be 100% myself the next time. Did it fault our relationship? Not at all. Sometimes these irrational fears are simply just that, irrational.

 

Uni is difficult because everyone wants the chance to reinvent themselves: I sure did. And because of that drive to be someone new, we exhaust ourselves trying to keep up a façade. I miss being low and inviting my best friend over just to sit and not talk. We would simply sit there in silence, eat Chinese and watch whatever sad movie we could find (I would highly recommend Clouds on Disney+ for a good cry). Or we would park in the car and just...be. It’s hard because it takes time to build friendships like that. What if I never find that person in Leeds who will simply sit on the end of my bed when I feel alone?

 

I’m currently trying to find the balance between building that closeness with my new friends but keeping it with my old friends too. I’m also trying to find the balance between confiding in my friends from home, whilst not actively being a burden on their own Uni experience. I don’t want them to see me call and roll their eyes because ‘Sharnel’s probably crying about something new again’. Yet, I want to maintain our relationship and still share aspects of my life with them. It’s difficult and it sure is one hell of a process.

 

So, what have all of these experiences taught me about time? Well, in life we often put emphasis on longevity, but some things and some people are just meant to be there for a moment. That didn’t make them any less valuable in the grand scheme of things; I’m thankful for all the people that have entered my life, whether I realised their purpose at the time or not. It just means we have to cherish them, and the moments they give us, in the now rather than focusing on the next.

 

Words By: Sharnel Wiggins

Edited By: Tamikka Reid