Casual Fridays: Growing-Apart Pains
Hi -- I'm glad you're here.
I'm calling this series Casual Fridays because the concept of a casual Friday has always appealed to me: dressing down the day before the weekend. For 13 years I wore a uniform to school every day, and I remember how euphoric it felt having an out-of-uniform day on a Friday. It made classes go by faster, everyone was in a better mood (even the teachers), and I just felt so much more comfortable.
Feeling comfortable can be a really powerful thing. I think comfort at work generates a more positive atmosphere, and studies show that a happy workplace translates to higher levels of productivity. Comfort with people fosters a spirit of openness and vulnerability -- it lets you settle in.
Well here we are on a Friday, and whether you're feeling comfy or had a really awful day, we can be casual here. We can all take a deep breath and let go of our discomforts -- settle in and stay a while.
When I was little -- first or second grade -- I had a best friend. And every day at lunch, I sat at the table with my lunchbox firmly planted on the bench beside me to save her a seat while she went through the line. So on this particular day, there I was, munching on my turkey sandwich, when I saw my best friend walking toward me. I picked up my lunchbox and waved at her.
Except on this particular day, she didn't wave back, and she didn't come sit with me. She looked at me, put her head down, and took a seat at the other end of the lunch table. I remember feeling so confused -- what had I done wrong? Was she made at me?
After lunch, on our single-file walk to the playground for recess, my best friend informed me that she couldn't sit with me on Thursdays anymore. Apparently, Thursdays were now her day to sit beside the popular girl at lunch. When I say "her day," I am indeed referring to "her day" on the written schedule that was created by the group to organize all of the people that wanted to sit beside the most popular girl. To minimize the fighting, naturally.
The most popular girl in the first (second?) grade was also one of my best friends (and she's actually still one of my favorite people to this day), but since I wasn't present during the creation of the schedule, I wasn't given a designated "day." When I approached her to ask if I could be included in the schedule (I'm appalled with my child self), she didn't even know what I was talking about. The group of girls fighting over her forgot to tell her that they'd created a daily seating chart.
When I asked the girl in charge of the project, she told me there weren't any days left.
I had lunch with a new crowd for the rest of the year. And I wasn't close with the seating chart gang again until middle school.
My point with this story: I was introduced to the trifecta of girls, friendships, and politics very early on in my life. I am no stranger to the miserable feeling that arises in your stomach when your friends find other friends, when your people become other people, or when you feel like you lost a game you didn't know you were playing.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I envy you. But if you have even the smallest memory flashing through your mind, Hi, I hear you.
So here we are 15 years after my first best friend found a new crowd. And even though I no longer sit at a lunch table, the reality of growing apart from friends or feeling ousted from your people never changes.
"I know this transformation is painful, but you're not falling apart; you're just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful." -William C. Hannan
I know it can be really hard to accept when your friendships are changing -- to feel as if someone who used to know every detail of your life has no idea what you're currently going through. I know it feels wrong when you see them commenting on everyone's Instagram pictures except yours, when you watch their Snapchat stories and realize how much fun they still have without you, or when you find out about big news weeks after it happened and wonder why no one told you. Trust me, I have been there, I am still there, and I'll be there again.
The truth of the matter is that two people can without blame or grand betrayal become strangers.
But here's some good news: growing apart from people doesn't discount the moments that you grew side by side. I whole heartedly believe that each person you love -- hell, each person you interact with -- over the course of your life leaves something with you when they go.
We kind of pick up pieces of one another along the way -- tiny sacred moments, phrases no one else would understand, and lessons learned together that imprint on our hearts. These little pieces shape who we are.
Sometimes people aren't meant to stick around forever, and that's okay. Sometimes the people we think we'll do life with become people we do "right now" with, and that's okay, too! We need certain personalities to influence us at different times. Is it easy when we invest in the long-haul and only get the right-now? No, absolutely not. But it's normal. It's necessary. Growth can't always happen in the midst of your happy place.
If you're feeling growing pains right now -- whether your romantic relationship is changing or a certain friendship feels different -- you're not alone. And there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Because even though not every person is meant to stick around forever, some people are.
Some relationships and friendships are for keeps. And the best part about allowing yourself to feel those growing-apart pains is that you have a deeper appreciation for the people that continue to choose you every day. Cherish them! Choose them back.
I've been lucky enough to find a handful of these long-haul people, and the experience of being their friend has changed my life. A seemingly insufficient "thank you" to these humans for giving consistency to the future.
And to all of the right-now people from my past -- to my childhood friends, my first love, my one-season-only crowd, my high school boyfriend, and everyone in between: thank you for shaping the person I am today and for lending me a tiny piece of our memories.