When I went home this winter break my first thought was: I hate nostalgia.
Borrowing Dennis Reynolds’ words from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” I hate nostalgia so powerfully that “the thunder of my vengeance will echo through these corridors like the gust of a thousand winds!”
That’s an exaggeration, but watching this show, what struck me about the characters is that although they’re in their late 20′s or early 30′s, they all became friends in high school.
When it comes to sitcoms, I could only think of shows that fall into two categories: friends in high school and friends after college. What happens in between? What determines whether or not people stay friends?
Over break, I reflected over whom I still remain close to and whom I’ve drifted from. And I realized that I have a whole spectrum of enduring relationships with high school friends:
- The One Who Ghosted but Instantly Reconnect in Person
- The One Who’s Always There for You
- The One You Didn’t Want to Bump into but Unfortunately You Have a Small Hometown
- The One Who Drastically Changed
- The One Who Got Hot
- The One Who Still Thinks We’re in High School
- The One Who Peaked in High School
- The One Who Went to Harvard
- The One with Newfound Confidence
- The One Who’s Now a Stoner
- The One that Has Two Kids
- The One Who’s Already Landed Five Internships
- The One You Realize Was Never Actually Your Friend
There are always the funny, comforting cases when people seem exactly the same and it feels like no time has passed. But the main point is, reconnecting with high school friends, more often than not, is bittersweet, because either you change, they change or you both do.
Sometimes this change is good. Sometimes you both matured and you share stories with each other for inspiration. Other times, this change creates tension and pushes the two of you apart. You drift, you don’t talk as much, you’re not in each other’s lives anymore.
With me, I experienced two cases in which I both dropped a friend and was myself let go of. Just as I felt I had outgrown one of my best friends, another stopped prioritizing me as she replaced me with newer peers from college.
As someone who cares deeply about her relationships with others and who works hard to maintain them in person, it hurts me whenever I don’t get a chance to meet people. Although we had four weeks off this break, I chose to spend only 10 days of it at home.
As we get older and busier, time becomes more and more precious. It is incredibly stressful when it comes to planning dates, especially when I’m on break and just want to relax. Guiltily but truthfully, I’m admitting that I simply don’t feel as close to certain people from back home anymore. There are places I’d rather be traveling in and other college friends whom I want to spend time with.
Though it’s sad, drifting is natural. When you make memories with new people, the lack of these shared experiences become apparent with your older friends. Especially when my college friends were there for me during hardships while high school friends weren’t, I learned to depend on my newer friends for support.
We need friends to be stable and accessible, and when distance and differing time zones tamper with this ideal, it’s a matter of learning whom you can depend on and whom you cannot. The bitterest realization I ever made was when I thought to myself, “You weren’t there for me. And I got through it. So I don’t need you.”
Even if some of my high school friends and I see each other again, it just isn’t the same anymore. And to me, one of the most hopeless feelings in the world is chasing something that’s already gone.
That being said, what will never change is the impact these people had on me. While the years at college can be the most experimental years of our lives, our high school years, I would argue, are our most formative. High school seeded our foundations so that we could grow in college.
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is a show where its characters and plot development rarely progresses. Perhaps that’s why they all stayed friends so long after high school. But real life is full of change.
With that in mind, the friends I made in high school will always be a part of me. It doesn’t matter if we don’t actually talk or meet up. Because of our impact on each other, wherever we go out into the world, I know that, in a way, we’re always going to be connected.