Saturday, October 11, 2008

Old Friends

I am at a point in my life where I have changed a great deal from the personality I had earlier in life. Until a few years ago, I was gregarious and outgoing in all situations. I made friends often and enjoyed spending time with people more than anything else. I still seem to base my enjoyment of activities much more on who I am with than what we are doing.

Over the past ten years, a number of factors have contributed to shift my personality quite a bit. Heavy travel and long hours at work were part of it, some health issues were part of it, and becoming a parent is part of it. Now, I find that I spend most all of my free time and energy with my kids. I still enjoy people, but the people I enjoy most are enough for me now. We spend our time with the kids, some couples that my wife and I like and enjoy getting together for dinner with now and then, family and some casual friends through school, or the kids sports teams, etc.

But overall, I enjoy solitude more than I did. I enjoy the hour or two of quiet each night after the kids have gone to bed and it is just me and my book. I am seldom the life of the party now, but more often an average guest, neither too reserved or too outgoing. In fact, as the years have passed, I have come to value my old friends even more - and I always valued them pretty highly. By old friends, I mean the friends I made as a teenager and still keep in touch with 35 years later. Something about old friends, or maybe just these old friends, is so essentially different than the friends we've made more recently. Old friends don't have to figure you out. They don't just see part of your life. The context of those friendships began before I'd accomplished anything, failed at anything much, had big and small, great and rotten jobs, married, divorced, had children. But also, it is the context of having shared each of those developments and stages of life together. Why is it that when you meet with old friends it is as though no time has passed since last you saw them? At least in part it is because you know each other so well, know how each other thinks and feels. I also think it is because a few weeks or a couple months or even a year passing without seeing one another doesn't add up to much time at all compared to the 35 years of friendship between us.

My friends from childhood - five or six of us - keep in touch. We get together, email, call now and then. And I think all of us realize that we are fortunate to have made the effort to maintain our friendships. Down the long years, those friends have become much more than just people we enjoy spending time with. They have become a richness that our lives otherwise would lack. They have become a source of stability, kept us grounded, reminded us of who we are.

I still enjoy people and like to meet and talk with others. But it is a luxury to know that if I never make another friend, I have these good, old friends to carry with me as far into old age as we go. I'll make more friends, I am sure. But I won't ever make better friends.

No comments:

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.