Last night I was talking to my mom about an old friendship, one of those relationships that's a lot different than it used to be, and you're not entirely sure when or where things changed. I told my mom, "I used to think she just really changed after we graduated, but now I wonder if she was ALWAYS like this and was just different when we were in school?" And my mom said, "I think LOTS of people change when they're in college and then revert back to who they were before" and then we started talking about everyone we knew who could or did or might or is currently fitting this mold.
I think it's hard to say, because most of us aren't terribly sure who we are before we Go Out Into The World (college, for most of us, and whether that is The World is debatable). But as far as you can really categorize these things, I think it's true for me. I was a boring rule-abider before, during and after my college years, no huge changes for me. But I WAS different in college. As unfortunately evidenced by the totally worn out pair of Birkenstocks I finally threw out the other day, with a huge exclamation of "I CAN'T BELIEVE I EVER PUT THESE ON MY FEET" disgust.
The big stuff didn't change - I didn't lose my faith - but the details did - I became an honorary non-denominational Protestant for four years.
One of the biggest things that happened to me was one of my best high school friends (I KNOW. Eventually I had GOOD FRIENDS from HIGH SCHOOL!) made a special trip to my dorm room sophomore year to come out in person. This was an enormous deal in my universe. It affected everything from how I interacted with my NDCF friends to what classes I chose to the music I liked to recalculating a lot of high school memories to (and this is embarrassingly true) how I cut my hair. I'd always been interested in feministy genderific sociological stuff, but now I was REALLY interested in it, obnoxiously so. I really needed to make sense of certain things, and I really really wanted to live "authentically". I was super committed to doing and being the things I said I was going to do and be, namely: Independent! Smart! Well-Traveled! Did I mention the INDEPENDENT?!
Then I started dating a boy. (One of my very favorite Dar Williams concert moments is when she told us that she got married that year, paused a second, then added, "TO A MAN".) Many - practically ALL - my feministy genderific sociologically contrived ideas floated into outer space somewhere. Half because they were mostly stupid ideas, half because I didn't need those ideas to protect me from Phillip's big scary Man Agenda. In fact, when I tried to tell him why this stuff was so entrenched in me he never appeared to be anything other than Utterly Clueless, so nonexistent was his Man Agenda. Sigh. College Me was frightfully stupid.
ANYWAY. I tell you all this because a few years later I was telling a friend how much I just really wanted to quit my job and stay home with a baby and she was looking at me like I had sprouted another nose. If this person thinks much about our friendship I'm POSITIVE she wonders Where I Went Wrong. We had several conversations about it, all of which made me feel tremendously guilty because where DID I go wrong? Was I copping out? Failing? Turning into someone I never wanted to be?
I spent way too much time thinking about this, but I'm glad I came to the right conclusion, which was: IT WAS OKAY FOR ME TO CHANGE. And perhaps I wasn't so different after all. Maybe the person she became friends with wasn't "authentically" me, but maybe someone trying out a lot of new ideas, the way they say you're supposed to when you're in school.
When I was out with two friends getting my nails done this weekend, we calculated that one friend and I had now known each other a total of twelve years. TWELVE! For someone whose formative years were spent either moving or having friends move, that's a huge number. We've weathered each other's changes, although we're much better friends now than we were in school. But other people haven't ridden the Change curve as well, myself included. It's totally okay for ME to change but I'm not at all sure it's okay for other people.
Did you change or change and then revert? Do you have those different-than-they-used-to-be awkward friendships? What do you do about these? I was telling my mom that my current strategy is to just Go With It. I'm not really sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with letting go of expectations, to just take whatever I get and do my best in return. That's all we can do, right?