I realized this week that it was fifteen years ago last month that I graduated from high school back in Minnesota, back in the US. Now it’s impossible to guess on that day where you will be in fifteen years (and I don’t think I would have ever guessed England!) and who you will still know or talk to. So it is with great pleasure that I have to send my love and greetings to the girls from my graduating class who are still among my best friends in the world.
Maintaining a friendship across 20 years and a number of different states and eventually countries is not easy. We’ve drifted in and out of contact, and in and out of closeness over those years. In some ways, many of us have changed and funnily enough we’ve changed in ways that have been similar, such that we are close friends now only because we have all changed. Our circumstances differ, we are all in different places, different circumstances, but we are still friends.
Obviously this requires a great deal of understanding and patience. It’s not that we never argue, don’t disagree, don’t fall out, or otherwise feel the same about all things and never challenge each other. But we do have some degree of tolerance, of appreciation for the friendship, such that at the end of the day, we still love each other. This is an amazing thing, a very good thing (ha, Martha Stewart!).
I think if I had been asked 20 years ago whether I would still be friends with my female friends from junior high school at this stage of my life, I would have guessed “no”! My tomboy nature meant that I had more male friends than female ones, but interestingly the boys have mostly disappeared. I also had many friends from the years above us, and again I suspect that if asked I would have thought that the people in my own graduating class were not my most likely long-term friends. It has thus been a pleasant surprise to find that I was utterly wrong.
Nothing is better, when navigating the difficulties of a foreign country, than realizing that you do have a support network, even if they are a (seemingly) million miles away. Common backgrounds and interests, shared experiences, these are all things that somehow start to matter.
And it is not as though there are not new friends, new people in my life. There are, both from my time in England and before. My life is enrichened and my spiritual happiness enhanced by the friendships I have made since my teenage years. This is not at all to be discounted, and in day-to-day dealings some of the “new” interlopers are more important to me on a daily basis than the old stalwarts from my youth. But the big picture is pretty. Friendship is a treasure, and life is an adventure. As we go around the world, as we navigate difficult circumstances, we realize just how much we value the familiar.
I cannot possibly stop this theme without commenting that, much to my surprise and delight, one of the best friends I have made in recent years is my own sister. I’ve blogged about her before, and we embark on adventures as much as we can, given our different locations and situations. Just as with my non-blood related friends, we have our ups and downs, but at the end of the day the book on my shelf called “no friend like a sister” rings far truer than I ever could have guessed. She has a few years until she hits the 15 years from high school milestone, and I wish her as good of luck as I have had with the friends made in those days.
Americans have this tradition of Thanksgiving, celebrated in November, when we verbally and spiritually commemorate the things we are thankful for. I am a few months from that, and blessed to have celebrated it last year with other Americans displaced as I am from the homeland. But the spirit does live year-round, and so today I am thankful for my friends.