One of my best and oldest friends turned 30 last week. Her birthday has always made me more aware of my own age, because it’s 31 days before mine, and this year was no different. But more than my own age (and mortality), her turning 30 made me acutely aware of one other thing: how much has changed since we were, say, 24.
When we were 24, I had just moved back to this country, angry, bitter and struggling to come to terms with how I had allowed my life to spiral so far out of control that I had to travel 9402 miles just to try and regain some of that control. She herself had been back a year and a half, and was angry, bitter and struggling to find contentment in a job she wasn’t particularly crazy about, and a relationship of sorts.
Now that she is and I am almost 30, I am angry, bitter and struggling to come to terms with how I have allowed my life to spiral so far out of control that I’m looking for a way out of it. She herself is much less angry, much less bitter, and — from what little I’ve seen and heard — finding some semblance of contentment in a new job and a platonic relationship with men.
So what exactly has changed? you ask. Only the single most glaring aspect of our life together: our friendship. Where once we were inseparable and confiding in each other about practically everything in our lives, now we barely see each other — even though there is less than a 100m distance between our houses — and barely tell each other anything. Where once we lived by a you-and-me-against-the-world creed and deemed everyone else too difficult to be friends with, now we have completely different circles and completely different interests beyond the mahjong table (and we don’t even have mahjong to hold us together anymore).
For someone who has spent most of her life with little more than mere acquaintances, I’ve sure had to learn a great deal about friendship over the past year.
Any onlooker would offer the simplest solution: talk to her about it, and be OK again. But having lost more than just one person’s friendship this year, and gained many more as well, I know that it’s not as simple as just talking it out. Because somewhere along the way, one of us wanted something different, and strayed off the path we had always seemed to walk together. One of us — probably me — did something differently which drove a wedge in between us, and that wedge is the unspoken truth that somehow, we have outgrown each other’s friendship.
I still call her my best friend and I still try and make time to catch up with her every few weeks. Whether it’s out of habit, denial or a vain attempt to keep things the way they always were (I suppose that can be called denial too), it’s just something that feels safe and comforting. Our friendship is like the security blanket I rubbed holes in and brought to the US (yes, and college) with me: it’s worn too thin and barely keeps my feet warm, but it reminds me of a time when I couldn’t be happy without it.
So as my own 30th birthday looms, I’ve become a lot more aware of what it takes to make, keep and lose friends. But what’s special about this particular one is that although I’ve never told her (but probably should, at least before I leave this country), she is one of the people I will always look out for and think about, if for no other reason than that she was the only person who would stand by me when even I couldn’t stand myself.
Happy birthday, Bec. I love you always.