Holding On

Early on, I learned that change can happen quickly and unexpectedly. So is the case for many things in life, but often with the things that you are most comfortable with.

Rather than just a handful of unconnected people, I have always gravitated toward groups of friends. I had to say goodbye to my first group of best friends before my sixth birthday. With more than 3,000 miles and a three-hour time difference between us, it was hard for six-year-olds to keep in touch. The Internet was just becoming popular and I was never much of a phone person, so we didn’t talk often in our time apart. But we always picked up right where we had left off at our last reunion. As I grew older, I cycled through this and other “groups” of friendships–some I outgrew and others with whom I am still close today.

Each friendship, no matter its length, taught me something important.

Simple things can be fun if you’re with the right people.

Laughter and fake British accents make everything better.

You should give more than you take.

It’s always comforting to know that someone has your back.

And for all of the great lessons I’ve learned, my heart aches at the thought of all of the friendships that are no longer present in my life. At the friendships that sit in a dark corner, covered in dust. At the ones that faded “just because…”

The street for communication, effort, and time runs in both directions. Pieces of that road can crumble or fill with holes and bumps, sometimes due to simple natural causes. With each new obstacle in the road, the distance between its two points stretches further and the path becomes more treacherous. Can you still cross it without tumbling down or falling over the edge? Can it still be the same safe haven it once was? It will always be a two-way street, but sometimes you stop knowing the answer from the other side. An answer you once knew as well as syndicated sitcom reruns or your own chicken pox scars. At that point, the question changes from, “Can I still make it across this road?” to “What happens if I cross the street and there’s nothing on the other side?” and you become afraid to know the answer.

So you watch their lives move forward without you. You catch glimpses of their successes and failures, their pain and their pleasure–hoping they will be okay. You long to celebrate with them on their good days and hold them while they cry on bad ones. To drink tea and have dance parties. It will never be the same again, but you hope they remember that old friendship the same. All of the late night conversations, spontaneous food runs, and wasted afternoons in the library. And despite it all, you keep holding on. You keep those friendships tucked into a pocket or sat on a shelf and you hope that someday soon you can open them up again.

I felt particularly homesick for some very good friends recently. Then, because the universe is truly magical, certain things just fell back into place in the slightest but most necessary way-if only for a moment. We laughed over the same things we had laughed about years prior and it was like no time had ever passed. Those friendships are back in that pocket, on that shelf, now and that’s where they’ll stay. For weeks or for months, until something else brings them out once more.

Sometimes that just has to be enough to keep holding on.

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