“Make new friends but keep the old, some are silver and the others gold.” Did you sing this in music class too? No doubt my little girl hand clutched my bestest (at that moment) friend’s hand, as we sang with all our might. Once we enter the “adolescent years” friendships explode and burn like Jiffy Pop kernels. Alliances and stand-offs occur at every turn.
But then things (hopefully) normalize as we get older. We travel through adult life wearing many more hats than we did as students. We are workers, alumni, community members, spouses and parents. As we take new jobs or join new gyms, we shyly look for people with whom we might click. It’s exciting to discover a kindred spirit, particularly as we become even more individually defined. (Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to find a classmate who shares your obsession with Harriet the Spy and Kit Kat bars, than it is an adult with whom you care to have lunch.) Sometimes a work friend is just that; someone with whom to share frustrations and gossip and maybe an occasional lunch. On the rare occasion a friend discovered in the workplace shares your sensibilities throughout your life. The same is true for friends found at the school gate, house of worship, or neighborhood. If you are lucky, there will be people in your life who transcend place.
Something most of us could never have foreseen is the impact of social media. The generation that created it could not even have predicted how it would impact those of us long passed paying off our student loans. Why would they? For them it was a great way to connect with age and class-mates. For those of us of a certain age it means our past has found us. On our own terms of course. If someone would had told me, ten years ago, that I would be in touch with the girl who taught me fractions, well, I would have looked at them as I looked at her when she tried to explain the difference between fourths and fifths. There are friends I have thought of throughout the years. Some I even Googled periodically. But today, through the magic of Facebook, like a good military commander, I can report that almost every person is accounted for. Almost without exception, most are doing wonderfully in their lives, and that is a joy to know. I have been reminded of the longevity of intellect and creativity. That girl who was so quick and so funny? She’s gotten even better. The woman at work who had more style than should be allowed? Nothing’s changed, and her daughter seems to have inherited it.
But what about all those found friends with whom a mutual interest in Wacky Packs, Dr. Pepper lip balm and the claymation of Mr. Bill, were the ties that bind? Is there much to discuss (on Facebook or in person) beyond, “Hey, there you are!” After a few awkward versions of “So, you’re like a grown-up now” is there anything left to say? Any connecting points whatsoever? What if it’s worse than that? What if through the public broadcasting of Facebook you discover your schoolyard chum is a bigot or invokes the name of their favorite deity far more frequently than your comfort level allows? What if they post photos of babies dressed as flowers or puppies playing football? Is the fact that you grew up within a mile of each other enough to sustain a friendship, even one in the virtual world? For better or worse, “unsubscribe” is as effective as not returning calls. I am almost never a fan of letting things go unsaid, but what is the point of a conversation that starts with; “I wish I never knew these things about you.” Luckily those incidences are a just a tiny fraction of the larger friendship pie; their denominator being larger (see! I did catch on eventually.) The vast majority of found friends are a gift I simply never could have foreseen. It has created a fluidity and continuity of life for which I am so grateful. When the very best part of your past can be part of your present; well, what a wonderful world it is.