Make new friends, keep the old – but don’t dwell on them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. Back in my school days, I had a very close knit of friends. By high school, my closest friends were all people who I had known since middle or elementary school. We were very, very close. But by my senior year, there was a sudden shift in my sense of self. I felt completely different than the person I was in middle school, which I’m sure almost anyone can say by age sixteen or seventeen.

My best friends and I had all become very different people. By senior year, it felt like our friendship circle had become forced, at least for me. What tied us together was our memories, not necessarily our future prospects. We all had different ideas of what we wanted in life, moving forward.

I left my hometown and moved to a new state for college with a clean slate in mind. There were occasional texts and phone calls with my high school buddies in the first semester, but by the end of my freshmen year of college, I had burnt almost every bridge. There was literally only one friend left who I made an effort to stay in touch with.

And even so, when it came to that last friend from my hometown, we were only hanging on my a single thread. I made tons of new friends in college – at my new school. I made new friends: some of them became enemies, some of them quickly became acquaintances, and fortunately some of them became long-lasting, sustainable, and quality friendships. The person I was in college, in my early adulthood years, was absolutely unrecognizable to the teenager I used to be. I had absolutely nothing left in common with my high school friends by this point.

And then came a new phase. Now, college was over – we all graduated (or dropped out, or switched colleges, etc.) and we were all beginning new phases of our lives. Some friends returned to their hometown to reignite their high school friendships. But me, I stayed in my college town. I had been so ready to move on from high school, but I was nowhere nearly as ready to move on from college.

I was surprised, when I entered the workforce, to see how similar work actually is to school. Sometimes I felt like my workplace was just continuing education. It felt shockingly similar to college, maybe because most of my coworkers were recent college grads, or maybe because human nature never changes despite how old we get (as Bowling For Soup once said, “High School Never Ends.”)

Work becomes the new school. You see the same people almost every day. You work together. You all share a common goal. You’re all just trying to survive one day at a time. So, basically, you get a new set of friends. But this time, it’s even harder to keep up with old friends, because your job takes up so much more of your time than school ever did (unless you were one of those kids who studied all the time – good for you!) And when you’re not a work, you’re catching up on all those chores that your parents used to do for you.

A few years after graduating, I still felt very close to many of my college friends. We weren’t seeing each other every day, but we were making fun plans together, we were spending entire weekends together. But gradually, over the years, you can’t ignore that you are all in different life phases now. You all have different jobs – you don’t know who they work with and vice versa. You’re living in different cities, maybe different states now. Some people are married, some have a baby, some have a couple kids, some are dating around, some are completely single, and so forth. You can keep on making an effort to text each other, meet up with each other, but you can’t ignore that your daily lives are like night and day now.

I struggled a little bit to make friends at my job, when I first started. I genuinely liked a lot of people at my job, but I know that a part of me was closed, the part of me that missed my college friends and feared letting go of them. I had a few good friendships, and as a department we did several “happy hours” together, but looking back I can definitely see that I didn’t allow myself to open up completely. And sometimes I would purposely isolate myself and avoid coworkers because I didn’t want to get too close to anybody.

But things have really changed now since I switched to another department. My mindset has shifted. I’m really fortunate to say that my department is a really close-knit, supportive, friendly group. I feel like I can genuinely call several coworkers I have good friends of mine. I’m accepting that I’m in a new phase of my life now, and that I’m part of a team, and we all help each other out and support one another to get through our days as quickly and stress-free as possible.

Another interesting thing is that a few of my old high school friends – who I had once burnt a bridge with – have gradually reentered my life. A girl who I was once best friends with, who I hadn’t seen in six years, I finally saw again for the first time last fall and it was really nice. A lot of us are texting each other again, mainly just sending memes and reels to each other on Instagram.

So, what I’ve learned is that when you dwell on old friends, you lose the chance to make really awesome new friends. I made so many close friends in college because at the time I was completely done with my high school friends. And then I missed the opportunity to connect more with work friends because I was stuck on college friends. And now that I am making new friends again, I am not going to let nostalgia stop me from living in the moment. You don’t have to completely abandon your old friends, they will probably come back to you in the future, but never miss out on the present.


2 thoughts on “Make new friends, keep the old – but don’t dwell on them.

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