Reminiscing Friendships

I recently read an article by one of my favorite journalists who was lamenting about the difficulties of lost friendships and how friendships can grow cold and, unfortunately, die. A quote in the article from Virginia Woolf pretty much summed up her view of the matter - "I have lost friends, some by death - others by sheer inability to cross the street". Yet perhaps because of - or even in spite of - my personal experiences, I would (hasten) to add that there is, however, another view of the world, and more specifically, of friendships.

Whilst much of what was said in the article is undeniably true, and very sobering - especially about how friendships die - I have found that those that have passed on did so more because they were friendships born out of a certain period of my life, and as a result, naturally moved on as I (and my friend) moved on in life.

Let me illustrate. I had a great friend in primary school - Kang - and we spent an indecent (for guys, at least) amount of time on the phone, talking, playing role-playing games, discussing our hopes and dreams (a little footnote: we actually went through whole holidays where I would speak to him when I got up, grab a 10-minute break to scoff down lunch, reconnect after that, compete to see who finished a 5-minute dinner first, and then talk through till midnight or so. oh, and of course when I was that age showering and brushing my teeth were not paramount on my priority list).

Anyhow, I digress. The point is, we both moved on - him to Maju Secondary, me to Raffles - and our thinking developed differently. Oh, we tried to keep in contact for the first year or two, but inevitably we our physical and widening mental distance drew us apart.

I can think of at least a few other friends that I have lost in that manner.

Yet, as a counterpoint, let me draw on how my friendships with other friends have evolved - and, happily, they tell a different story.

Having lived away from home as much as I have, I have naturally come into and out of contact with many friends - both within our shores as well as without. Clearly, some "friendships" eventually turned out to be more like acquaintances, and as time wore on, our relationship deteriorated - maybe to the point where even Christmas cards are no longer exchanged (in mitigation, I must admit to the fact that I have failed to send out Christmas cards for the past 5 years, although the spirit has always been willing).

But then there are those friends whom, when we meet, we both pick up right where we left off. There's nothing magical about it. Just a meeting of minds, a mutual desire to remain as friends, and a genuine curiosity about the life of the other person. I am happy to report that I have a far larger pool in this category of friends than I do in the last - and to me, that is a clear sign that a simple decomposition of friendships into the polar categories of "there" and "ain't there" just isn't adequate.

Maybe I demand less of friendships. Maybe if I were a lady I would like to see more as a result of my invested time with another individual. But for me, I would say that I enjoy equally meaningful, fruitful relationships with all my friends that I keep in contact in this manner. And I lose none of that warm nostalgia that I have when I think of all the friends that I have kept in this way.

On a final note, let me paraphrase a quote that I once saw on a coffee cup, and which pretty much summarizes my thoughts on this matter:

"Life is an ocean voyage, filled with sailing boats of friends we meet along the way".

This was written on the 2nd March 2002, in response to a friend's email.