Thursday, June 4, 2009

Letting go of old friends

I have never had very many friends. Part of that is because I'm shy. Also I was home schooled for the first fifteen years of my life. That seriously retards a child's socialization. But I don't want to blame it on that - although I've experienced my share of loneliness, I don't think I've been unhappy. And now, although I could certainly stand to have more friends than I do, and although I'd love to have some coworkers with whom I actually had something in common, I am happy with the friends that I do have.

There are distinct periods of my life that are notable for a large social circle. College, of course, but mostly high school. And don't misunderstand me - I don't think that those were The Best Years of My Life and I don't even miss those days. However, it is undeniable that the friendships I had then were the most dynamic and intense, not to mention plentiful, of my life. The social circle was actually my church youth group and not a part of my high school at all. I moved out of Titusville (where I grew up and where I left most of my friends) to Orlando and rarely went back. So if I were to lament my lost friends (which I am not), it would be my fault alone. But my friends are gone - I left them, they left me, maybe we just drifted apart because I left the thing that was keeping us all together.

If I didn't live now, I would probably never even think of them again. But thanks to email, blogger and Facebook, I have discovered many of them again. And wow - we have nothing in common. I feel bad because I don't want to give them up all over again, but there is little compelling reason to hang on to them. They are all Christian, of course, which is no big deal. Although I am lucky enough that most of my friends are either atheist or non-religious, I understand that if I plan to live in North America - or even the world - I'll have to accept that people I may meet and even like will believe in a deity. My old friends are also overwhelmingly Republican. I have a bigger problem with that. As I have mentioned before, I view conservatism as a character flaw, but I recognize room for difference of opinion. Also my friends are anti-Obama - fair enough, since I was anti-Bush. But they are also anti-gay marriage. And by this point, I just have to wonder if it's even worth the trouble. Am I ever going to see them again? Do I even want to if the opportunity came up? I think the answer to both of those questions is no.

There are a few friends and family members to whom I grant a special immunity. I know that they are anti-gay marriage, Christian, pro-life, Republican - basically everything that I am not. And yet there is a history, a connection that is too valuable to just terminate. I don't mean those people. But there are some other people that I just have no use for anymore. Sure, we may have had some good times. There may be photos of us all smiling together. But aside from those times, some of which took place fifteen years or more ago (I'm 31! I'm old!) we have nothing in common. It's very difficult to cut them out of my life completely because their names and faces are still clear to me.

Why do I bother with this exercise? Well, it isn't a big deal really. It doesn't cost me anything to have a Facebook friend with whom I profoundly disagree on every single issue. But really, who needs them? I don't! I'm glad to have had them at some point in my life and I hope that their lives were enriched by my presence. Goodbye everybody!


Anonymous said...

Have you stopped to openly and honestly talk to them about their viewpoints instead of vilify them and their beliefs?

You might learn something new and open your mind a bit to people who think differently than you.

nathaniel wallace said...

I haven't really tried to reach out to any of my old friends lately, but I think that I've decided that it isn't worth the trouble.

There are far too many people in the world - too many people Raleigh, in fact - for me to spend time reconnecting with people with whom I now have very little in common. There isn't anything particularly special about the past that I should spend too much energy on those old friendships. Basically, I would rather spend that energy developing friendships with people who are more like-minded.