we all know that not every friendship can last forever. like boyfriends, apartments, and hairstyles (thank god), sometimes friends are better for a certain season of life than for the whole ride. but how do we know when that time has come to let a friendship go?
recently, i visited my college campus after 2 years since my last trip west. when i moved a few years ago from seattle to d.c., i had high hopes that i would return within a year. i planned on staying with my college boyfriend after the short stint of long distance and moving back to the west coast with my past friendships and future life goals intact. however, as quickly as my bags were unpacked, my friendships (and relationship) began fading. my boyfriend and i broke up, and i realized seattle was no longer the end game. phone calls and facetimes with college besties turned into snapchats and text messages, until eventually even those were too “difficult” for us to keep up with.
while the distance made an impact on many of my relationships, i had successfully maintained my best friend through it all with checkins, updates, and phone calls over the years. she visited me and we both reached out to each other, knowing that we valued each other more than the inconvenience of reaching out. but with other friends, it wasn’t the same. their efforts were exhausting or annoying to me, or my efforts were falling on deaf ears. had that distance finally proven that we were friends out of convenience, and not actually out of friendship?
in school settings especially, friendships are easy to form. everyone has school in common and are likely in similar stages of life. in college, i joined a sorority where we had sisterhood, classes, and events in common in addition to the fact that we all had similar goals, family structures and ages, and significant other issues we all faced. it is so easy to become friends when everything about the other person and their life, problems, and concerns mirror what you’re going through. complaining about your dead-beat high school boyfriend to your roommate who also is having issues with her long-distance beau is effortless. but as those commonalities start to shift, so does the friendship.
suddenly, it’s harder to talk to that friend about your boyfriend issues, because her fiancé proposed last month. your situation with your parents is now no longer relatable because you live at home, and she lives in a beautiful high-rise apartment on her own. your concerns about work and career growth are seemingly irrelevant when she just received a promotion and a pay raise. it becomes nearly impossible to relate to that person as effortlessly as you did before.
and for me, the jealousy has become a major factor. i don’t want to share with you how frustrating my boyfriend has been because he plays video games with his friends on a sunny saturday after i get the snapchat of your boyfriend making you breakfast in bed. i don’t want to hear you tell me “at least you’re living rent free” when i complain about being 25 and living at home, because you think you wish you could still live at home and save money instead. i don’t want to rain on your promotion parade with my depression about where my career is going and the epic failure i feel i am in relation to my goals. all this comparison does is create a wedge in the friendship that we never had before. no longer are we two girls going through life together – now we are two individuals comparing our lives to one another.
over time and distance, almost all of my college friendships faded, as i had anticipated some would. i have never been one to keep friends around after the season has dried up – in fact, i’m unfortunately known for the cut-and-run when i no longer feel i can rely on you the way i did before. but when i visited seattle again this month, these faded friendships hit me like a bag of bricks. these people who had shaped me so much – been so integral to the woman i became, held me when i cried, told me how valuable of a person i was – no longer even wanted to see me when i was in town for the first time after years. it was like pulling teeth to try and even grab a glass of wine to reminisce the good ole days together when these people had so completely changed and moved on from me. i realized these relationships were over long before i had landed in the city, recognizing that some individuals just hadn’t ever tried. and with others, i hadn’t tried either. i didn’t reach out over the years, keep in touch, or make an effort worthy of people who had been so important to me once before.
the hardest part of it all is that the friendships died so unintentionally. i had every intention of moving back to seattle and being friends with these girls forever. they were to be my bridesmaids, my children’s aunties, my wine and t-ball dates. and even when i decided not to move back, we would’ve had girls trips and reunions in my mind (think: carrie bradshaw wedding-less honeymoon with the girls).
but, not all friendships are meant to live on forever. i may not be a bridesmaid in 15 sister’s weddings, but i will be in at least one. i may not raise my kids with their kids, but i will make friends with fellow parents in my neighborhood. and while i still need to work on my jealousy issues (hello, therapy), i will gladly watch them succeed from afar and know the impact they forever made on me. friendships don’t all have to die a painful death, and there can still be love there – even when that’s all we have in common anymore.