I’ve started to collect lost friendships. Three years ago, I went to visit an old high school friend at her college. She forgot, and when I got there, no one was home and I didn’t hear from her for months. Around the same time, another old friendship felt the strains of long distance and faded as time between texts became longer and longer. Later that summer, my best friend at the time moved to Sweden and cut all ties with me after the move. The friend and roommate, then, whom I’d confided in about all of the turmoil moved out of our home to join a sorority and was never heard from again. I have quite the collection.
I have a lot of insecurity about this. I am, of course, the common denominator in all of these failed attempts at long-term connection. Over the years I’ve watched my circle of people shrink one by one and felt myself uncontrollably ramble to those who are left about the bitterness I still have over the ones who are no longer around. I feel a resentment that weighs down my current friendships and even the ones that have yet to be formed.
But what no one really tells you when you graduate high school, amidst all of the celebration and anticipation for the future, is that your relationships will end. Of course at the time everyone has an unspoken fear of this but simultaneously feels like the exception. We collect dorm addresses and compare academic calendars, but we all inevitably grow, and sometimes it’s apart.
Friendships fade for lots of reasons: distance, changes in values, new experiences — all natural, reasonable, understandable. But it’s not always blatantly clear why relationships start to deteriorate, so we search for the exact turning point where things started to go wrong. I often wonder, for instance, if it was when I got frustrated at my friend for missing my annual dance performance that she decided we were no longer compatible and worth maintaining after her move across the Atlantic. Or if it was when I expressed discomfort with my roommate’s decision to join Greek life that she knew we no longer belonged in each other’s lives.
I am perhaps going to keep wondering about the moments where things started to break for a long time, yet I’m learning that our sadness over natural and bittersweet disconnection likes to come out in anger and frustration — desperate to point blame.
When I graduate college in a year, friendships will end, and I will still unavoidably possess the feeling of immunity and denial that I’ll have to say any goodbyes. But when they do end, I will not blame myself or others for time doing its usual job. I have an inevitable collection of past friends, and so do they.