Candles That Burn Twice as Bright

I remember once, as a young child, I was talking to my mother about school friends. She told me how she didn’t see hers anymore and that that was just something that happened as people became adults: they drifted away from their childhood friends. It was a thought that made me quite sad and something which I hoped would never happen to me.

Today that is still a thought that makes me very sad. I am still in touch with my friends from primary school and secondary school and the idea that a time may come where I do drift away from them still makes me quite sad. Thankfully, I have been able to keep in touch with (almost) all of the friends who were most important to me, so the chances of us drifting apart from them now seem pretty low.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that conversation with my mother is one of the early childhood memories which stuck with me, because the idea of become separated from my friends has always been something that causes me worry and concern – perhaps to an undue or irrational extent.

University was the first big “new start” for me because primary school, secondary school and sixth form had all merged into one another quite seamlessly. It was the first “mass exodus” of people from my life and I remember it being something which I quite dreaded, because I wasn’t sure how I would handle the loss of friends. I remember saying, semi-jokingly, to one or two people, that it would be nice to stay in school forever.

I’d built up strong bonds with quite a lot of people by then. I remember lots of the nice things they said to me; “You’re a good man, Adam. I hope you know it.” “Knowing that there are good people like you in the world makes me cry with happiness.” “Of course I trust you – because it’s you.” Words which still give me confidence to this day. The experiences which I shared with people back then (school trips, visits, long walks etc.) are memories I shall cherish forever.

Knowing that I would soon be separated from all of these people, I intentionally started to isolate myself from them. I reasoned that, if I got used to not seeing them in advance, it wouldn’t be so sad when they were suddenly gone. It’s a decision that I consider unwise and regret as I believe it made it harder to properly get back in touch with certain people later in life – but to the teenage version of me, it seemed perfectly rational.

Thankfully, making new friends was never too difficult for me. Before long I had two new friends at university with whom I was very close. I think, perhaps, that having now experienced friends moving on in their lives, I was keen to make things even better with these new friends. I felt much closer to those two friends than I had done with anyone else in the past (thanks in no small part to being much more emotionally open.) But, naturally, I still missed my old friends a lot and I even wrote about it here on this blog!

Foolishly, I made a little promise to myself that I’d be sure to always keep those two friends in my life. There was a short time, in fact, where I actually considered my life to be perfect. But this attitude of mine was unhealthy and was not compatible with the ever-changing nature of life.

As I had made the effort to become much closer to those two and much more emotionally invested in my friendships, their departures from my life were even more difficult than when I had left sixth form. One of them move out of my life so slowly, that I never really saw it coming and I never really had a proper “goodbye day”, while the other I ended up having a few goodbyes with – at the last of which, I made sure to say “Never forget that I love you and will miss you very much.”

So is my conclusion that deeper connections through friendships are not worth the heartache? Absolutely not. I suppose going to university was a time of emotional development for me and, after having those two very good friends, I decided to be as open and as close with all friends going forward – and backward. I guess loss was important when it came to appreciating people (no matter how much I felt I already did) and so I made the effort to be more open and affectionate with all of my older friends too, which I find very rewarding.

And, of course, there’s the fact that (in most cases) people don’t really disappear from your life. To make a television comparison, it’s the equivalent of a leading character being reduced to an occasional guest star. The transition can be difficult, but the significance and influence that each person carries is never really lessened. That’s the important thing to remember.

This is a subject that has been troubling me recently. I feel as though a lot of my friends are simultaneously making the transition to the “occasional guest star” status. Which is difficult for me, as I always like to see people. Of course, I know, I will make new friends and the cycle will begin anew, the problem is that it sometimes feels a little tiring. I just need to remember that, yes, it is all worth it and, yes, it’s always better to be happy that something happened, rather than sad that it’s over.

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