This post is inspired by a post I saw on Medium by Mark Greene about the importance of male friendship. It is a stunningly good read.
February, 2016, before I move to Prague. I run around town to see my friends who I might not see again till the April of that year at the earliest and maybe longer. At the same time, I’ve been cultivating a new friendship with a work colleague named Violeta. It turns out, she knows an old school friend of mine, Dan M, who I’d fallen distant with and acquired “beef” with – I’m good at two things, writing and grudges. One night, I run into her with some of her pals, one of whom was Mona, and crowbar myself into a Super Bowl party, and also to a gig for Dan’s band.
The band was cool. If Vampire Weekend was a fruity Merlot, these guys were a full-bodied Malbec. They had a cowbell. Dan had improved at guitar since I knew him and he’d already looked like a real up and comer. Afterwards we went to a pub, where I chatted innocently with Dan about where we’d been and done, then Mona came up to us:
“Have you guys settled your beef yet?”
“We have beef?!” Dan asked, with an audible interrobang (?!).
It makes sense. Truth is, people just grow distant in and after high school. Some people more than others because they move schools or cities. I always felt our separation started sooner, at high school, as we were developing into different people, free from our shared primary school history. We’d stopped playing badminton together, which I was great at. We played rugby together for a time, which I was a lot worse at. We started hanging around with different crowds. When he left, it just felt par for the course (incidentally, he was a bit better at golf).
Bits and pieces of these things led to me becoming a bit bitter towards him. It’s much easier as a guy in high school, it seems, to get bitter and angry than it does to get a bit sad. There’s almost definitely something about social conditioning in that. It’s far too easy to become bitter and angry toward a person than to feel any sort of sorrow at no longer seeing them.
It makes you pine for days lost. Building forest hideouts. Skateboarding up the leisure centre – so glad I nailed the kickflip, shame a van took that particular ability away. Building fires. Running through woods. Running around badminton courts. There is quite a lot of building and running in these particular memories.
All that came flooding back. We talked through my “beef”. And then the night continued. We kept drinking. And I remembered why we were friends. We were friends for a reason back in the day and we just clicked back into it. We’d both grown and changed and experienced so much more, but at a basic almost subconscious level we had stayed the same.
Unlike Mark Greene in the link above, losing touch with my friends has not resulted in tragedy. In this, the Scottish experience is different from the American experience. It is important though to remember our friends from time to time.
Greene’s article made me reach out to my friends. Because friends are important for your health and wellbeing. Many people “ghost” their friends because they hide behind a self-affected veneer of supreme cool. This is the modern age’s main problem. We let worthwhile and valuable friendships to atrophy as we’re always in pursuit of the new. While chasing new things is great fun, I implore you to think back in your past.
Who has gone missing? Why are they not there? How can you stay in touch and let them know they are worth it?
Reach out to people. Build your own community and support network. One activity a week, one social event, is all it takes. You can always make friends and there are very few times when you can’t make a friendship stronger.
Friends are about far more than numbers on a webpage. Friends are there when you’re let down. They are a hot line to who you are and were. They stick by you when times are tough. Let me tell you a story about one such friend.
My dad’s friend Ian, who he met while he was tending bar in Greece, was one of the warmest and most exuberant people you could ever meet. They saw each other loads, went walking, drinking, and boating together. Our family and his family went on holiday together. They had become friends by slinging insults at each other across a bar, and their friendship lasted over 30 years.
Everyone was to wear colour at the cremation. At Ian’s funeral there were three speeches. They were well-delivered and brilliantly written and spoke of someone that I wish I’d gotten to know better. I knew he was kind and funny but I had had no idea about his commitment to friendship. The service took place in a room that could probably fit about a hundred and fifty or more people and it was overflowing.
See, in a time of no Facebook and having to badger your parents to use the one phone in the house, Ian had stayed friends with people from every part of his school life. He had attended multiple schools as his dad was in the army. He wrote letters. Into his adult life he stayed in touch with people, he maintained and built friendships that would last. He had this way of melting everyone’s inhibitions and opening people up.
I think everyone could benefit from being like that. Identifying the people who you want to stay with or who have been important to you, and then sticking with them.