I recognize that by most standards I am fairly young. But, as opposed to when in elementary school you could be best friends with someone you’d known for less than a year, a lot of my friendships are reaching impressive longevity. Impressive to me, at least. And one of my favorite things about these long-term friendships is the ability to see how someone changes over time.
It can definitely be a challenge to register growth in a close friend. I think it’s more natural for most of us to see our friends as constants–people with fixed, immutable personalities, likes, and dislikes. On the one hand, this is how you get that miraculous feeling of taking up right where you left off when you get together with an old friend after a couple of years without seeing each other. On the other, you can get the feeling that you’ve outgrown friends, because whenever you’re together they expect you to be someone you no longer are. Expect you to still want to drink a bunch of Mountain Dews and play MarioKart on a Friday night instead of catching a show, let’s say.
Personally, I really like it when my friends point out how I’ve changed, unless it’s in a markedly negative way (“Laura, you never used to do so much meth*”). I think a lot of us have a hard time seeing our own growth as clearly as we can see that of others, since the change is usually gradual and we’re so deep in just being inside our meat-lockers (is that an acceptable new term for a brain? I kind of like it) 24/7. Of course, that can be the case for seeing good friends clearly as well–if you’ve been with them throughout a gradual period of growth, sometimes it takes a moment of stepping back to realize just how far they’ve come.
The less positive side, I guess, is when people have serious problems and you don’t realize it because you’re remembering them as they used to be. The girl who drank a lot in college (sweet!) who’s still drinking a lot after college (not sweet!). The friend who’s always had a lot of romantic drama who’s actually in an emotionally-abusive relationship that sounds melodramatic because it’s really messed up, not because he exaggerates. I know I owe it to my friends to try to take a clear look at them and their situations for what they are instead of bringing all my past associations to bear.
But anyway, back to a lighter note. Here’s to the people I’ve known for three, four, five, six, twelve years. Here’s to the friends I can tell stories to without giving tons of context (“So Todd–that’s my brother, he’s 22, he’s in Belmont right now–no, I don’t have a sister as well”). Here’s to my Chicago friends meeting hometown friends meeting college friends. It’s a pleasure to know you guys, and I hope we stay in touch for the rest of our lives.
And seriously, get off the meth.
*Sorry, I’m watching “Breaking Bad” and it was what came to mind.