Losing friends

I am sure everyone has this, but there are a lot of times in my life, when I think I am the only one making any effort in my friendships. I seem to be the only one constantly reaching out, asking to meet up, or asking the other person how their day has been. While this description feels tilted in my favour (and rightly so, since I am very unlikely to cast myself as the villain in my own story), I do acknowledge that it might sometimes also be the other way round. Maybe there are people in my life – friends – who feel like I’m the unresponsive one. Like I am the one who never wants to reply to texts on time or to hang out with them. While I certainly know the first instance to be true, I am self-aware enough to admit that the second one might not be so far from reality either.

So why have I been losing friends? Why does anyone lose friends?

Apparently, there is an age beyond which most of us will start to lose friends. That age is 25. Quite accurate I think – since I’m 26 right now. Till you’re about a quarter of a century old, you have the energy and the willingness to keep expanding your circle and to cultivate whatever circle you have. But more often than not, once that mark has been reached, your enthusiasm starts to wane. You inevitably start letting go of people. And that isn’t a bad thing. You start to let go of people because you are (usually) no longer looking for transient or frivolous connections. Now is the time to build a life you want, and people who do not contribute to that in a significant way will inevitably be left behind. That is just the way it is.

And I’m not talking about emotionally draining or toxic friendships. Those you should let go of regardless of the stage you are at in life. I am talking about good, decent friendships that one may have enjoyed at some point in their life. I am talking about really good school friends or college friends.

Another reason a lot of people have been writing about nowadays is the pandemic. Because the pandemic clarified a lot of our priorities, naturally, the only people we spoke to during this time were either people we deeply cared about (thereby removing an entire layer of superficial friendships) or people that we found convenient to talk to (thereby removing some long distance friendships too). The pandemic led to the formation of something called ‘pandemic pods‘ in terms of relationships. It reduced the number and kind of people we had historically interacted with to either people who were very important to us or people who were following the same standards of care and hygiene as us.

But as guilty as I feel for not reaching out to people more often, or as mad as I am about people who don’t bother to reach out to me, there is nothing unnatural about losing friendships as we grow older (and hopefully wiser). It could be for a number of reasons. Reasons I have mentioned above, or even some of those toxic reasons I have deliberately left out (don’t we all just have a couple of friends or people we know that are such an emotional drain on us?). Instead I really like to think of it in terms of this new concept I learnt – something called “friendscapes“.

As you can probably tell by the name, it means cultivating landscapes of different kinds of friendships and acquaintances that serve different purposes in our lives. Put simply, “your friendscape can change during certain, specific situations during life – going away to university or a summer camp, or being in a certain job – and you often begin curating new friends to fit that current life situation. Not everyone can fit into your current friendscape.” I like this idea a lot because this is exactly how I feel about a lot of people that have either come into or gone out of my life. There are friends I have lost touch with because I became busier than them, and friends I have gained instead because we work the same kind of hectic jobs; friends I have lost touch with because they are in long-term committed relationships, and others I have gained instead because we are a bunch of singles looking to do fun group based activities around town.

So, yeah, while it is tempting to think of lost friendships in terms of blame and bitterness, I think it is a lot more helpful to just think of these lost connections as a fact of life and move on. Makes for a more peaceful existence. And I’m nothing if not obsessed with that.

Talking to people

Photo by Carlos Caamal on Pexels.com

I’m a talkative person by any standard. I love talking. To people I know, to people I don’t know, anyone and everyone. I can talk about almost anything. I consume an unhealthy amount of media and so I never run out of things to talk about. Just to give you context,I spent the entire day yesterday researching how we size our garments. Interesting history there, but I have to write a blog post on that as part of my fashion course anyway, so I am saving that for later. I do that a lot – spend a lot of time researching things that interest me. These are rarely, if ever, relevant to my life. I just like to know things. And whenever I am not actively looking for things, I am still consuming a lot of media passively. In all its forms. There are the books I love to read. I read a total of five books in August (not counting the many, many YA fantasy novels I devour, provided they can be read for free on Kindle Unlimited). I watch movies all the time. I’m on social media for the better part of my day. I’m obsessed with watching YouTube videos. Because I have such an unhealthy level of media consumption, I’ve become a repository of trivia. I can talk about my favourite fictional characters, cooking shows, podcasts and the ideas people discuss in those, till my jaw starts to hurt. But I have been steadily running out of people to talk to.

For the last two years though, ever since the pandemic hit, I haven’t really had anyone to talk to. I don’t mean that in a dramatic sense. I live with my family, and I usually talk to them at meal times. But it is tiring for them to listen to everything I have to say, and quite frankly, boring for me to have to contend with such few opinions. I want people to disagree with me. I want to learn something from people every time I talk to them. I don’t like talking to people who have had the same experiences as me – except when I need to vent. Or at least, I didn’t like it. Now that I have no access to actual human interaction outside of blood relatives, I see what a privilege that was.

When the pandemic first started people didn’t really take it seriously. None of us thought this was going to last as long as it did. For most of us, myself included, it seemed like nothing more than a well-deserved, state mandated break from work or school or whatever else our obligations might have been. The losses since then have been unending. There have been real and measurable losses all of us suffered – the loss of a loved one, of a job or a source of income, amongst others. But there has also been the psychological impact of being isolated for such a long period of time. I didn’t take all of this seriously at first. The human loss, the economic loss, yes. Those things I could see happening around me. But coming across reports of how people aren’t faring too well in isolation – because of the loneliness – I didn’t take that as seriously. I didn’t think this was something that could really affect me. I just took it to be one of those things people always talk about but doesn’t happen to anyone. I had my family, and I had a fairly comfortable existence even in the pandemic. Plus I had access to any and every form of entertainment I might need on the internet. What could possibly get me down? A lot, as it turns out.

I have people around me, but I don’t have access to people I would really talk to. Like any other self-respecting young adult out there, I only talk to my family when I have no one else to talk to. They’re great, but they aren’t really down with entertaining you at all hours of the day. Not in the way your friends, or other people around you are. If I had to – I can only compare it to how people describe hometowns in movies. You know the story of how a kid grows up in a small town, leaves it for other more exciting places, and then comes back. While our hero is happy to be back in said hometown, they really cannot fathom living here for the rest of their lives (at least this is how most of them go). They’ve outgrown it. All of us outgrow our families to some extent. And for the last two years, our growth has been stunted. Yes, we have access to all this technology and we can reach out to whoever we want whenever we want. I still don’t though. A part of the reason why I think I find it hard to call / text other people in my life is because that part of my social etiquette is still stuck in pre-pandemic times. When we didn’t really worry about the next time we were going to see our friends, so we reached out to them rarely. At least, I know I did. And now, even though that is the only way I can talk to most of them, I hesitate to do it.

The less I talk to others, the heavier my head feels with all the information I keep forcing into it. This blog is one of the ways I can let some of it out. I talk to myself as I type so that it feels a little like a conversation, albeit one sided.