I’m lucky; Lucky-enough to have very few regrets. But there is one that’s not quite a regret, but if I delve too deeply into analyzing its causal events and my actions, it may just be. Or, maybe it’s just a bit of bad-luck: Losing a friend.
I met a friend through some casual friends I often had lunch with at University. He was scheduled for a multi-month trip to central Asia a few weeks after I met him. We became good friends in those few weeks: going to parties, having beers and laughing… but with no lasting connection – the kind built through time and shared experiences, the continents apart became a permanent disconnect. It was such a short relationship that, for this, I had to look up his name: Ian.
I don’t regret anything about this – but in thinking of him, it reminds me of other fleeting relationships that maybe I SHOULD regret.
One such example is my friend Ben. We did a Post-Degree Teaching program which had us (a cohort of 18 people – or so) spend all day together for 6 months before being placed in a 3-4 month long in-school practica. I did, and do consider him a best friend. Amongst a fairly-tight group of 6 of us, Ben and I were generally inseparable. Many projects ended (or were postponed) with late night visits to student watering-holes, where we made those drunken, midnight connections with personal philosophies, common experiences, and mutual hopes or frustrations. Much of that was education related – which may have leant to this relationship being short-term, but too much of it was personal – greater than our career choices – that I find it hard to ignore how tragic it is that I never saw him, called him, or connected with him on social media, since.
Our practicums were at different schools, and far apart. Mine, near where I lived on the Saanich Peninsula; his, downtown, near where he lived. For me, the proximity to home was a benefit: Teachers I had as a student became colleagues, and it was even a friend’s dad who ultimately hired me into my first teaching job. For Ben, who had been heavily involved with volunteer-work helping street kids through his church, the proximity meant trying to teach the kids in a “rough” school, who were the same kids he was feeding and sheltering on weekends. One of our last discussions was of him not pursuing a teaching career. His practicum had broken-him, or at least broken his heart.
He and his wife were from a small town far away from Victoria. Her dad was a principal at a high school in that town, and they likely went back, but I simply do not know.
This is where I fear that regret could sneak in. Should I, or he, have maintained the connection? If I think deeply on it, I may begin to assign guilt to our actions, and so I tend to quickly remind myself, that I have had many of these friendships (or girlfriends) that might have continued under different circumstances – a summer fling with a girl prior to her leaving for Australia; a child-hood friend who moved away…etc. I know I’m not alone with these.
I often wonder if my connection to Ben was too good – too personal; to the point that it made us feel vulnerable. If we saw the potential to grow apart or be at odds, perhaps the quick separation benefited us by maintaining our memory of each other.
This is certainly the case of some child-hood friends. My best-friend and neighbour when I was young was Mike. There was no social media and I was too young to call him. Our parents got us together once or twice after I had moved, but the relationship ended. Then, the age of social media had us seek each other out. However, in my 20’s, when we reconnected online, we found ourselves immensely different. He, a blue-collar, heavy metal fan and I, embracing the nuevo-hippie engaged in higher learning. Mutually, without saying so, we never suggested meeting and we did not maintain our online relationship. In that case I know that we both valued our childhood memories, and felt that they would be replaced by something less-pure, and less simple.
A long-time friend (and still current and also named Mike) once told me of how awkward it was for him to go to his kids’ friends birthday parties at that age when kids are young-enough that parents always stay for the party. He felt that the parties were forced-social interaction for the parents and the intent was to make friends. Disclaimer, Mike is sort-of anti-social, but that comment was more a reflection of his dry-humour and cynical nature. However, his primary point was “I already have enough friends.” It’s that comment that makes me remember our conversation. I don’t feel that I have enough friends… in fact, I never really thought about quantifying friends. But I sometimes apply it to thinking of my “Best Friends for a Day;” maybe we just don’t have room for all the relationships we want to have.
Some lost friendships are simple to understand. My child-hood friends Joel and Sean I saw often because our parents were best friends. Despite living great distances apart our shared-memories were numerous. I had seen neither for more than a decade when the age of weddings brought us back together. My wife and I renewed our friendship with Joel and his wife and for Joel and I, we immediately were like old friends – no awkward moments, not even much need to “catch-up.” However, Joel and his wife then had kids and that changes everything. As we know, having kids ourselves, it is hard to maintain friendships with couples without kids when you have them – the lifestyles just don’t mix easily. We grew apart from Joel and his wife. Again, I don’t see it as a loss. I wish we had stayed close, but our connection and our memories will remain even as we go our separate ways.
Whether our lives are full, and relationships have to end to make way for new ones, or some are so rich and full that we dare not risk losing the memory or that some are so deep that we end up feeling vulnerable and insecure, I’m sure I’m not alone in having friendships lost throughout the years. Is there a need to regret or grieve the loss, or do we just shrug and say C’est la vie?
Regret or not, I often think of those friends. The memories are good, and while the feeling of loss turns the whole memory bittersweet, I am often left with a general feeling a warmth, or satisfaction, and I take a deep, relaxing breath, smile and move on.
I think I’m lucky.