I've been lucky in my life that I've been able to hang onto so many important relationships, from childhood to adulthood. Growing up, even in high school, I never had tons of friends; but, the ones that I did have - those that went through that crucible with me - are still in my life. I don't try to keep up with the fake people on Facebook that I never had anything in common with. I don't plan on attending any high school reunions in the near future. I'm pretty sure that we still wouldn't have too much to talk about.
My college years were so different from my high school years. I was happy to be free from the preconceived notions and reputations that haunted me through those awkward times. I was far from home, far from my family and from my twin, the one person that had/has always been part of who I am. (People back home still say, "I saw one of the twins today." It doesn't matter which one that they saw. We are a unit and that doesn't change with age.) When you come from a small town, once your identity is established, you aren't really allowed much room for change even as you grow up and grow old. Now, for the first time in my life, no one knew that my hometown thought I was a nerd or a weirdo.
Of course, they would all find these things out eventually. I never stopped being a twin and, once I was removed from her, I missed that connection in my life. I never stopped being a nerd, but my new friends were nerds, too, in their own ways. And quite a few of us were considered weird by our peers.
I always say that I was lucky to meet and fall in love with my college friends, because the rest of the school was going to lump us together anyway. Maybe I'm like Ponyboy, still judging the Greasers and the Socs from those days by making that assumption. But, that's how it felt at the time. We were theater dorks, art freaks. We watched Corman and Waters movies in the common spaces. In a world of BMWs and designer clothes, some of us cruised around in old beaters and wore thrift store clothing. There were exceptions, and some could float in and out of various social groups with ease. But, plenty of us lived largely outside of the norm. However, this time I was older; I'd made my own choices; I wore the brand with pride; it didn't hurt.
So many of those friendships have lasted. It's been 17 years since I drove those 10 hours from Florence, Alabama, to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. We've since been scattered to the four corners of the map, and still many relationships remain. They change, we grow up, but somehow we can find a way back to one another.
I'm visiting a dear college friend very soon. In preparation, I pulled out an old album filled with embarrassing photos, newspaper clippings, and theatre programs. When I found this picture, my heart felt a little pain. The four young girls here were once inseparable. We lived together and each was so very intertwined in the lives of the others. But, of all of the relationships that I've saved and treasured, these have largely scattered to the wind. I loved and continue to love, those girls (those women) so deeply that they still feel a part of me. After all of these years, I can cry thinking about that love and those connections lost.
As with all of my friends, I hope that these girls are now women with lives and families and relationships that make them happy. I have those things. But, I worry about them. Where have they gone? Will they come back to me someday? Have they kept and nurtured those things about themselves that make them so special to me? I wonder if it's normal that I still care so much.
I guess I never want to lose those people who stood by me when I was in the process of becoming who I am.
I'd love to know your experiences. Have you held onto friendships and relationships for years? My husband says it's not normal for me to have so many great loves, great friends remaining in my life after almost 20 years. Do you have them? Or did you grow up and, like Wendy, outgrow Peter Pan?