Monday, August 21, 2006

Friendship Life-Cycles

One of the greatest lessons I have learned by being back in Chicago is that the nature of friendships shift. I realize that, to some, this is an obvious statement. I should have learned this truth during my move to Texas, but it was actually in the returning that it became real to me.

When I moved away on my own, I expected for my friendships to become different, and they did. However, I solely attributed this change to the distance. We still talked pretty regularly, whether the purpose was to process emotions or catch up on life changes. I didn't expect that we would hang out regularly because (duh) we lived over a thousand miles apart. Basically, though, the way we related throughout that whole time was quite consistent. We were still really important to each other and, in my mind, that was demonstrated by the way we kept in touch.

Because there was a certain consistency with the ways we related while I was gone, I figured that, basically, the former status of our relationship would return if I happened to live nearby again. I knew that it wouldn't be a seamless transition, but I kind of figured that I would be worked into the social mix again. After all, every time I visited, people were eager to spend time with me while I was in town. Imagine if I was living there again...

Also, because I had experienced such success leaving one place (IL) and keeping in touch with my friends from there, I expected the same thing to happen with my Texas friends once I left. After all, they said we would stay connected...

Upon moving back to Illinois, I was in for an abrupt awakening. Not only did my relationships with Texas people dwindle in certain ways, but my friends here were not quite what they used to be. Sure, there was still a closeness when we got together, but those get-togethers seemed to happen quite seldom. It felt as if no one really needed/wanted me anymore. My expectations were unfair, I realize now.

It was hard for me to accept that friendships simply change over time. They just do. It's not anyone's fault, it's not a personal thing, they just change. I know now that it's a good thing. Our needs change as we grow. Circumstances also shift. These changing factors do not indicate a lack of care for people we have been close to. It just means that life changes bring about all kinds of other changes, even including the nature of specific friendships.

I'm learning to embrace the friendships I have for exactly what they are. I don't have false hope that they will forever stay exactly as they are right now. I will, however, be grateful for whatever form they take.

As I prepare to move again, I know that my friendships will change. This time, I'm excited to see how the freedom I give to that will enable each of us to really flourish. Moving forward does not mean forgetting the past. Each person will always hold significance to me. The role they play during each stage of my life can change, though. That's not only OK, it's really healthy. Here's to all of my friends--you have had, and will continue to have, a lasting mark on who I am as a person.

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