In which I surrender
Oh yes, it appears we are still doing Seven Quick Takes

I'm posting this because I'm avoiding posting about grad school. You're welcome.

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?

Comments

janey

Great post! I now realize that many of my high school friends (myself included) simply didn't want to be alone. We needed each other to sit with at lunch and at games and to save each other seats in class. You know, so we didn't look like loner nerds, which is what we all felt like on the inside. I remain in contact with very few of these people. In college, however, I met people I actually liked and had fun with, and I'm still friends with many of them today. I also realized no one cared if I sat by myself in the HUB to eat or the library to study, and I stopped caring so much if others cared. All in all, I think I'm the same person I was before, just way more comfortable being that person.

lindsay

Hmmm I think my high school crew are all unique! Different! types and I tried to be the same way when I visited w them in the summers home from college. But now when we hang out I'm like yo: I am in to marriage, babies, suburbia, and CAPITALISM too. Deal! And in some cases it has meant we have nothing to talk about anymore but in the case of my hippiest/greenest/most alternative friend it has meant the best conversations ever. So I think the relationships that are meant to be just weather it out just fine...

-R-

Oh my gosh, I completely relate to what Janey wrote. I think that most of my high school friendships were based on the fact that I didn't want to be alone. I didn't really like a lot of the people I was "friends" with. I haven't had any contact with most of those people for years. Then when I went to college, and later law school, I cared so much less about what other people thought of me, so I felt a lot more free to be myself. I need to think about this a lot more!

Jess

I feel like I'm still me, just older and more mature and having seen and done more things, you know? I don't think it's that we aren't authentically ourselves in college, but that we are evolving and we go through phases as our worlds expand.

Also, I think that who we are is related to our environments. I think we act differently in different spaces with different people and different ideas around us. But that doesn't mean we aren't authentically ourselves the whole time.

Sara

This is a very timely post as I am right now struggling with a age-old friendship that is deteriorating and I don't know what to do. In short, we've known each other since HS, were college roommates freshman year, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding three years ago and we now live mere blocks from each other in a big city. And yet, I have seen her twice in the past year, emailed with her no more than three times past those two in-person sightings, and she has never once asked after my son nor seen him since my baby shower last August.

Now I've received a save the date for her bachelorette party and upcoming wedding and I don't feel comfortable going since we haven't spoken since JANUARY. I have recently tried reaching out via email without success and have heard through the grapevine she has had "issues" with me for a while now. Yet she has not once confronted me about these issues, whatever they may be. Do I let her go? Do I try again (and again and again) to get in touch with her? Do I accept that something happened and I may never find out and move on? Do I even attend these events this fall, even if I don't end up getting in touch with her?

(Oh, wow, sorry...looks like I turned this into a free therapy session for me.)

My point is that I also wonder why/how to handle friendships that aren't what they used to be. Maybe your current strategy of "Go With It" is something I need to adopt so I can stop thinking about this so much.

Elizabeth

Many of my earlier relationships have not survived. And I know a lot of people who are tres dubious about the SAHM thing. I think because we all know (myself included) that given my dream job, I wouldn't be doing this. So why don't I make my dream job happen? I'm really not sure. But sometimes life just feels like survival in the circumstance one has been given, at least lately.
Which gives me a lot to think about. I want to do more than just get by.

Sarah in Ottawa

Though I went through a period of terminal self involvement during late high school/early University (I'm sorry, family and friends), I think I'm pretty much the same person I've always been. I've grown more comfortable in my own skin, and 'become more "me"'. And the bulk of my friendships are the kind where despite the distance and time between meetings, you pick right up where you left off. It is so comforting.

But it sucks when friendships change. I've had one go totally pear-shaped due to substance abuse and it is so.very.hard. Though I struggle with it, I have to let things lie. And feel incredibly guilty about my inability to do more.

Elsha

I think I did the "change while I was in college then revert" thing. It's actually interesting now to find out who knows me and who doesn't. I've always wanted to be a stay at home mom (always, ALWAYS) so anytime somebody is surprised that that's what I'm doing now I think, well, they don't know me very well do they. I guess lots of people assume that since I have an engineering degree I'm devoted to having a career. Really I just have an engineering degree because I LIKE engineering and I think it's good to be educated.

Redbecca

I'm right there with janey. I can count the friends from two high schools that I'm still in regular touch with on two fingers. One each. However, from college I can count them on hmm....one? And even most of these folks I don't chat with but maybe once a month (to be fair, we are all over the country). I'm not the large group of friends type. I have many casual friends though. Guess this is what happens when motherhood and extreme INFP collide. I like to think I'm always genuinely me, though. I don't see a vast difference between HS me and now me, except maybe I swear more and say the word "like" a lot less. :)

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