23 June 2015
“It’s one of the blessings of old friends” says Ralph Waldo Emerson, “that you can afford to be stupid with them!” Having just spent an extended weekend meeting and catching up with old friends in a city we once resided in, i couldn’t agree more. You reminisce about the bygone times, remember crazy events you were a part of, laugh over those special inside jokes and gossip and whatever be the time gap between your meetings, within minutes the intervening years just melt away. The experience set me thinking about a life-phenomena many talk of~ what makes friends from your younger days special and why does one find it difficult to make similar friends as you grow older?
The answer to the first part perhaps lies in the fact that those friends are symbolic of a certain carefree, fun period of your life, a part of which you store in your shared memories. In being with them you catch a glimpse of what you once were and feel young again. Of course at times reality can give you a rude shock too…you run into someone you haven’t met in three or four decades and they’ve gone old and shocked you realise the same goes for you too!! Nevertheless by and large time spent with such old friends is always a warm, pleasurable experience.
The second is a dilemma caused by a host of complex issues. Sociologists consider three conditions crucial to making close friends : proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other…college life being a perfect example. As life happens it becomes tougher and tougher to meet these three conditions. A spouse, later children and increased professional commitments get added to the equation. Moreover as people approach or get past midlife, their priorities change and so they become pickier in what they want in their friends. What you end up making are transitional, situational friends…a neighbour you clicked with before one of you moves away; the acquaintance you strike up at a gym; the parent you meet everyday while dropping your child at the school bus stop and discuss school work and other related issues with; the people you hang out with while on a package-tour or holiday; the ones you play a game like golf or tennis regularly with; someone with whom you work on a project or attend a professional training course for a limited period of time…fleeting and transitory in nature these “friendship-encounters” still enrich your life and sometimes lead to lifelong relationships.
So treasure your old, special friends but enjoy making new ones at every stage of life…