Essay: On Friendships Lost and Found
Social media sites, like Facebook, and Instragram, have enabled many of us to keep in contact with – or even reconnect with old friends we might have thought we’d never hear from again. But with few exceptions, the nature of friendships is different when they play out in pictures or brief status updates. Lake Effect essayist Lane Pierce reflects on one friendship lost and found again.
When I first met Liz it was the summer of 2001. I had just developed my “sea legs” after finishing my first year at Marquette, and I had signed up to work on campus for the school’s summer orientation programs. Not having a place to live, the university had paired me up with an upper classwoman – Liz. When I arrived at her apartment, I was shown to my room – A clean bright room with no furniture and nothing at all inside. For several weeks, I slept on couch cushions on the floor. That summer I had the time of my life.
Liz looked like a little, dark Irish nymph, but when she spoke you were always surprised at her deep, throaty words. She had bright eyes that penetrated the world. When she looked at you, you felt certain she could see right through to all your corners. I was smitten, loving my new friend from the start.
We spent our down time sitting in grass or on couches, chomping baby carrots, analyzing the party or the conversation or the boy from the night before. She pushed me to a new level of young adult freedom, pulling me along to daily adventures. Not a minute with her was wasted and by the time I moved out of that empty bedroom, we had packed several years of friendship into a few, short weeks.
College life rolled on, and though we were never roommates again, we often found ourselves over a beer, or tea, or Thai noodles solving the world’s problems and always saving room to dish about the latest love interests. When she graduated and moved abroad, I missed her often, but for several years we wrote, and I lived her adventures vicariously from the safety of my laptop.
I don’t know exactly when the bond broke. Maybe it was a slow result of two paths diverging – Me, sinking roots into Milwaukee, marrying my college sweetheart, buying a house and having a baby. Her, an international life, graduate school, falling in and out of love. But after several years it started to seem like we didn’t understand each other anymore. When we did get together, her stories and adventures sounded chaotic to me. Perhaps, my life felt ordinary to her.
When my husband and I married, she returned to Milwaukee to attend the wedding. Greeting each other at the reception, she flew at me with the same enthusiasm she had had years before. Her arms grabbed around my neck, catching my earrings and pulling part of my hair out of my fragile hairdo. I gripped her shoulders, pulling her back and saying, “STOP,” in an effort to save my special wedding day appearances. From that point on, the communication slowed and our friendship was reduced to Facebook posts and updates from mutual friends.
This week, I received an email from Liz sharing the news that she was engaged to the love of her life. Her email began, “Dearest Lane.” I read her happy words and felt happiness, too. She explained she felt sad that we had lost touch, and I too felt sad. Her announcement seemed to me, not just that she was sharing news of an engagement, but that she was reaching into my world a bit, sharing a mutual experience, our paths coming a little closer together.
I’ve often been aware of how easy it is for me to accept the natural changes and flow of friendship. Circumstances change, people change, and I've always felt comfortable with that, making friends where I am in life. I feel certain I have moved on, leaving cherished friends behind me, hurt and confused. It’s not an effort to be heartless or disloyal – It’s more about being present to who I am now. But when I read “Dearest Lane,” I am reminded that some friendships are worth the extra steps to find each other again – Wherever we may be.
Lane Pierce is a writer and mother who captures stories from the parenthood trenches. Lane is a Listen To Your Mother essayist and 2014 Milwaukee cast member. She writes, wrangles and raises a spirited preschooler with her husband in Fox Point, WI.