Growing up and growing apart: Friendship transitions

By: Katie Kohls

@katiekohls

From what I have gathered from my college friends, many of us, for better or worse, are different people than we were in high school and with that transition came the loss of high school friends. Recently, old high school friends of my mine have gotten engaged, and thanks to Facebook, I get updated on all of it. Once upon a time, I would have most likely been in those upcoming weddings, and now I will be very surprised if I am even invited. But I’m not sad or even disappointed at that prospect, I was actually kind of surprised at my reaction. I didn’t feel envy or the sting of a lost friendship; I was genuinely happy for them and glad to see that their lives were turning out seemingly happily.

But how do we even get here, from one time BFFs to almost strangers barely connected by social media? For me, I graduated high school and I didn’t have built-in friends anymore. We no longer had lunch to sit with one another or the opportunity to discuss weekend plans in-between classes. We kind of tried to keep in touch, but as we all went off to different schools, it wasn’t a priority.

While we didn’t keep in touch, I still saw the lives they presented on social media. I was jealous of the fun they were having, how I wasn’t a part of their lives anymore, and how my life seemed so lackluster in comparison. It wasn’t a competition, but it felt like one and I was losing. I was petty. I wanted my life to seem better and more fun without them. Because as much as I was responsible for the loss of friendship, them having fun without me felt like a dig that their lives were better without me. Logical? No. Dumb teenage emotion? Yes.

With so many transitions starting college, that lack of consistency made it feel 10x worse. I didn’t really know anyone, commuting was difficult, and I felt so lost without an anchor. We all know freshman year is rough, but a freshman year without discernable friends outside of class, it was horrific in my memory. I wanted nothing more than to skip through the rest of college and begin “life” — funny how life doesn’t work like that and we’re forced to suffer through it. It was an all-time low of my brief lifetime.

Well, unsurprisingly I made it through. I was able to make genuine friendships which led to more amazing friends. And as much as that time sucked to experience, it was crucial in forming me. I learned that I was OK on my own, however unpleasant it was. I spent a lot of time reflecting on life so I formed my own ideas, and not just regurgitating my parents’ thoughts. I was given the opportunity to find my own faith and way of leading life. I also learned how adult friendships work, somewhat, because you no longer have all your friends in lunch or in study hall. Friendships require work, persistence, and a desire for companionship.

As I look back now on those high school friendships, I realize how brittle they were. That we could lose something so important because of distance tells me now that our friendships were probably more about convenience in the end than about sincere care and regard for one another. My friendships now at least seem to be deeper and filled with a lot more heart, well most of them. I hope my high school friends have found similar friendships and confidants.

So to any of you who read this and have lost friends, it’s OK to let go of childhood friendships. It is OK to grow apart and grow on your own. But if you are still bitter about the separation, you still have growing to do. I now look on my friends’ joy with happiness for them. I no longer am privy to it except through social media, but I wish them the very best that God wills for them. I hope they wish the same for me.

So to the lonely one who hasn’t found their friends yet, keep trying I bet you’ll find your place. Remember to learn and grow along the way. And to those who have kept those old friendships, good for you. Just don’t hold on too long if those relationships keep you from growing. Finally, to those like me, remember the old friends fondly, thank them for how they have shaped you, and cherish the friends you have now. People come and go, but their impact on you may last forever.

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