I have had the privilege of traveling a lot recently to visit those that I love who I am no longer fortunate enough to live near. Typically, there is at least one exchange that goes something like this:
- Friend introduces me to someone they have recently met: “This is Kristen. She’s here visiting for the weekend from Washington, DC”
- New person responds: “Nice to meet you! And how long have you two known each other?”
- My answer: “Since pre-school” or “Freshman year of college” or “somewhere during middle school?” or “forever”
- Typically, the person says something like “That’s so great that you’ve been able to stay good friends!”
- My response never varies: “Well, I’m hard to get rid of” [smile].
One of the things that those who interact with me quickly learn is that I am fiercely loyal. If I am privileged to call you friend, or even better – family, I will defend you, praise you, and fight for you. I am very hard to get rid of.
Just this morning, I was asked how I was doing, and I responded by summarizing the circumstances that my friends are currently walking through. When I was challenged to report on how I personally was doing, I had to stop and think. I am decidedly an individual, with plenty of my own thoughts and opinions, but I am also very community-driven. I rejoice when my friends rejoice and mourn when they mourn. I am happy to be in their company and feel as though I am missing something when we are apart. How they are doing is, in a very real way, how I am doing.
Thanks in large part to parents who modeled this and a hometown that never changes, I am still friends with the people that I grew up with; I keep in close contact with those that shared my life in college, in girl scouts, in AP US History. But DC has begun to test my resolve. This is one of the most transcient places in this country, and I am in the most transcient age group within that city. Friends that I had two years ago no longer live here. If they do, they moved across town and have a different job. Keeping in touch is proving increasingly difficult.
But this article from the Wall Street Journal offends my sense of relationship. Some things in this life are worth fighting for, and I passionately believe that relationships are one of those things. To list off ways to break up with your friends, as this author attempted to do, is a mark of the current state of our society. We can reinvent ourselves every few years and no one has to be the wiser. We move away from home, rarely to move back. We leave college and pick a new adventure. We get a new job, a new boyfriend, a new apartment. Five years later, we have a new husband, in a different city. If that doesn’t work out, just pack your bags and repeat the process somewhere else.
Roots are valuable. History places us. The people who have watched me grow up love me differently than the people who only know me in Washington. They may be harder to love, or easier to lose touch with, but you fight for the things that are worthwhile.
The idea of deliberately trying to end ties with ones that you were once so close to is appalling. Fight for those relationships. Do the hard work of picking up the phone, writing a letter, going out to dinner. Get to know each other again. Find out what went wrong. And forge ahead. As with most things, the road less traveled is where you want to be.
(special thanks to regan for pointing out this article and being as appalled as i was)