Once I care about someone, I tend to care about them forever. It doesn’t matter what changes in our lives–marriages, divorces, cross-country moves…how I feel stays the same.
We may have met when I was a nineteen-year-old popcorn slinger at the local movie theatre, singing show tunes and cracking jokes, or when I was a timid Pizza Hut waitress, thrust into a new city with no friends or family to speak of.
You could be a completely different person, living in another province with a spouse and family–it doesn’t matter. When I think of you, you are still that goofy kid who wrote the funny poetry that never failed to make me smile, or the Seattle-music junkie who used to make me mixed tapes. Either one of you could call me out of the blue after twenty years, needing my help or just to talk, and I would love you just the same.
As an only child, I’ve always considered my friends to be my family. I put everything I have into these relationships, but I’ve learned from painful experience that not everyone feels that way. So yes, over time I’ve realized that I have difficulty letting go, especially of people who were there for me during pivotal points of my life.
When I finally returned to kickboxing, it was without my closest training partner. This guy helped me pass the red prajioud test. Without him, I don’t know what I would have done. He even ran the required 8.5 minute mile with me, keeping me on track. When my legs (and willpower) began to fail, he shouted encouragement and wouldn’t let me give up. His support made all the difference.
We sparred together, went through fight camp together, ate our disgusting calorie-laden post weigh-in meals together. He even held pads for me before I stepped into the ring for the first time. I began to associate training with this friend, and sometimes he was the only one who got me through it. But then he opened his own gym, a rift formed between the two clubs, relationships were severed, and unfortunately, our friendship somehow ended up on the chopping block.
I was heartbroken. And when I returned to kickboxing, I was nostalgic. Every time I went for training, I pictured us in the final lap of that triumphant red prajioud run. I tried my best to patch things up with him, not understanding why they needed to be patched up in the first place. So we went to different gyms now–was that the end of the world? But finally, I had to accept the painful truth. I had to let my friend go. (But of course I didn’t really let him go–he’s still the guy who took my prajioud test with me and encouraged my love of terrible carbs. If he called tomorrow, all would be forgiven and forgotten. That’s just how I roll.)
This sort of situation troubles me when I contemplate moving to an island. Obviously, very few–if any–of my friends will be able to visit, and Internet access will be sketchy at best. Am I doomed to become the person others have to let go?
How do you keep a friendship going through miles and years? Have you ever had to let someone go, and if so, how did you do it gracefully? Or maybe, this kind of pain is just part of living and keeping our hearts open to new friendships. Perhaps there is no way to truly avoid it.