I’m not very good at making friends. I’m also not very good at cutting paper in straight lines, but the latter is less of a necessary life skill, turns out. I’m actually ok at the making friends part, it’s the keeping friends part that I’m less good at. Friendships have to be tended and cultivated. They require things like phone calls and plans to get together. That is where I tend to fail.
When a friend of mine heard that I was leaving Boston, he told me I needed to plan a going-away event and ‘GO OUT WITH A BANG.’ I told him, ‘I don’t think I’ve done anything in my life “WITH A BANG.”‘ I didn’t really feel the need to even tell anyone I was leaving (aside from my landlord and employers), which is sad. In part it’s because I’ll still be going into Boston once a week, and I’ll make it a point to see my friends (seriously, I totally will). But it’s also because I didn’t feel like I made very strong connections in Boston. Now, maybe that’s just my perception, and that’s totally on me.
Friendships are infinitely easier in grade school. K-12 you see your friends at least 5 days a week, and on top of that you spend time with them in extra-circulars, and sports, and clubs. Friendships start as incidental and circumstantial. As Louis CK says, You’re friends because you’re the same size. I saw my closest friends all the time. And I loved high school. I know as a nerd/intellectual/later-in-life-smart/creative-person you’re not supposed to have loved high school. But I did. I was teased and whatnot, sure, but I was able to shake it off because I stuck to what I was good at and to whom I was close. It was the best. I actually expected college to be much the same. Of course it wasn’t. There isn’t the same kind of built-in friend structure once you graduate from high school. Not even in the smaller, slightly incestuous-feeling fine arts departments.
I’ve never been the type who, after meeting someone says, ‘Hey! We should exchange numbers and hang out some time!’ or even, We should get coffee, or go see a move, or, anything, really. Outside of classes and extra-circulars and work, I’m not very good at being a friend. Which is a problem when you’re 27 and sporadically employed. I don’t make plans because I assume people are busy or uninterested in hanging out with me (remnants from a best friendship gone bad). As an adult, I have no idea how to really be a friend. Fortunately, I have friends in this town who are better at being a friend than I am.
Having friendships end, therefore, is something you think I would be accustomed to. And, somewhat sadly, I suppose I am. Typically my friendships end due to lack of contact. We gradually stop emailing/texting/facebooking/etc., and since we aren’t in the kind of environment where we see each other often, the friendship fades out. Although, I do still consider many of these people my friend, despite never seeing one another and hardly ever talking. Other friendships end because, well, you grow up. I’ve remained friends with very few people from high school. We went away to different colleges and our lives went in different directions. It’s no one’s fault; these things just happen. I’ve had other friendships barely even start. Even from college and grad school I have few friends because I haven’t reached out the way friends are supposed to. Maybe it’s a low self-esteem issue; I don’t think people want to be my friend. It boils down to a fear of rejection that I’ve developed as I’ve grown up. I’m not the kindergartener going around and introducing herself to everyone in class anymore.
I’ve had some of my best friendships end. Two because we were in elementary school and their families moved away. It was sad both times, and both times I didn’t think I’d ever be able to have a best friend again, despite being barely-into-double-digit-hood when both friends moved away. Another of my best friendships was long-term and ended because, well, simply put, we weren’t very kind to each other. But also, we grew up, and we realized we were just very different people. The friends I have now, I do keep at a distance because, I’m sure subconsciously, I’m preparing for the friendships to end, one way or another. Coping with friendships ending is one of those adult skills I’m not sure I’ve quite acquired yet.