“So here I am, surrounded again by these people. These are wonderful people. These are some of the best people in the world. But they have no place in my life. I’ve always partitioned my friends. I’ve kept them in neat containers, and when I move on to a different phase of my life, I toss that container and everyone in it.” – Sid
An old friend wrote that as part of a larger note on Facebook a little while ago. It’s not as harsh at it sounds because he’s talking about how, mostly thanks to Facebook itself, he’s connecting with all these old friends who until recently had been all but forgotten. I’m one of the people he was talking about and I’m happy we’re back in touch. I’m also happy he wrote this because he got me thinking actively about something I have passively known for a long time.
I’ve always sucked at keeping in touch with people who are important to me. I think it started when I was a kid and my family would frequently pack up and move to a different city for one reason or another. When I was in elementary school I didn’t know how to contact someone in a different city so moving was akin to severing those relationships and I had to start over from scratch in the new town. As I got older communication got easier, but that idea that things and people from the past stay there kind of always stuck with me. It’s not that I’d avoid anyone, but lets just say that trying to stay in touch with anyone I don’t see or work with on a daily basis has never been one of my strong suits.
And I was OK with this. When I would run into these people again, especially the ones who were most important to me – close friends, old room mates, ex girlfriends – it was awesome. I was happy to see them and excited to hear what they’d been up to in their lives. I remember how important they were to me while keeping in mind that they are a slice of the past and easily put them back in their little containers once we’ve parted again. That’s how things used to work, and then came things like Facebook.
In Sid’s note he’s talking about the old #punk irc channel. I can’t even begin to add up the time I was on there between 1992 and 1995 or so. Endless hours spent talking to people all over the world about everything and nothing. Some of these people would have couches that I would end up sleeping on at one point or another, some I’ve still never met in person. Some went on to have families and kids and some of them ended up dead. These people were the world to me at one point in my life, and then, they weren’t. Sid had a hand in reconnecting many of us on Facebook and it has been awesome. Again I’m happy to reconnect and it’s amazing to see what everyone has done with their lives but something is different. I’m not just meeting them for coffee in a city I happen to be passing through, where we catch up and then go our separate ways, now we’re connected and can touch base every day if we want to.
And it’s not just old nerdy punks. In the past 6 months or so I’ve found or been found by people from any number of elementary schools I attended in cities all over the US. I’ve reconnected with my closest friends in the world, from highschool. I’ve commented on photos posted by people I dropped out of college with and virtually poked people who I used to work in a cube next to. It’s good. These are people who were important to me and there’s no reason they shouldn’t still be. But it’s not really that easy, and it’s actually a little scary. I thought I was the only one who felt this way but Sid ended his note echoing my own feelings:
“So where do these people fit in? How do I rebuild a relationship with fantastic people whom I now have no context for? I’ve never figured that out, and I’ve never had the courage to try. But this time I think I want to change that. I want to surround myself with these people again, I’ve just got to figure out how to do it.”
I’ve always said that my friends are the most important thing in the world to me and I’d do anything for them. But I think I haven’t actually fulfilled that as much as I would like to think I would, but that is something I want to get better at. But how do you bring these old friendships into line with new ones? Are they compatible? At one point I might have thought I only had so many cycles available and if they were all spoken for anyone who didn’t make the cut was left out, but now I think that’s kind of bullshit and I should be able to keep these important people from my past in my life somehow without it interfering with the important people of my present. I don’t think I have to sacrifice one for the other, in fact I probably never did but I let myself believe I had to.