When it comes to friendships, I believe in quality over quantity.
Another thing I believe is that these friendships should be easy, especially with my female friends. They should be easy, smooth, effortless…in other words, I shouldn’t have to “work” on keeping these friendships.
They should just work!
With these seemingly opposing convictions I set myself up with, I have “highly selected a few” friends (aka small number) from my past New York City life.
Since the move from New York City to Toronto in 2007, I have not done much to keep up with my old friends. I just figured I would somehow pick up where we left once we start getting connected again.
Except, it has been 13 years since the move… of course, there were a few visits or phone calls between those years.
However, I did not actively keep up with the friendships. Other than getting a glimpse into their lives through seeing photos and activities on their Facebook accounts, and clicking and liking those posts, no efforts were made.
With this laissez-faire (aka do-nothing policy) attitude towards friendships added with the difficulties of these friends living in the US and other parts of the world, I felt the close connection I once had slowly dissipated over the years.
Last year October, experiencing the grief of my dad’s passing, I also recognized the importance of keeping those close friendships, especially with some of them I spent a lot of time with. Another aspect to this recognition also came with the urgency I did not have before.
I started going through my old address book and started writing while hoping their email addresses would still work. More importantly, they would respond.
This is what happened after sending out the emails on that fateful day in February this year.
One friend did not respond
My initial journey into getting reconnected with old friends started with this one particular friend.
She was one of my closest friends in my New York City life…shared many nights of dinners, sipped coffee at various Starbucks, and then, of course, shared the most important female bonding ritual – shopping.
We were even working at the same office for one year, and staying late working and having dinners while lamenting the difficulties of life in New York City brought the level of female connection which cannot be replicated with male friends.
My New York City life would not be complete without her.
However, something happened with that friendship.
I visited New York City a few years later after the move and met with her. Something felt different…
Not sure if it had to do with our circumstances-marriage, having a kids-or the amount of time passed in those years. Although I could not articulate the feeling I had (I still cannot), I just knew that things felt different, and I suspected she might be feeling the same.
Instead of letting her know how I felt which I was able to do in the past, I did not talk about those feelings….neither did she.
That was how our friendship slipped away from us in 2013.
With a stretch of seven years between us, I just got on with my life with the same mantra, friendship should not be work until last year.
My dad’s passing last year added with the difficulties of the forced isolation due to the pandemic, my priorities shifted as well as the attitudes towards relationships in general.
Recognizing the importance of relationships, especially personal ones have been significant; they need to be nurtured, rather than expecting them to grow on their own.
That is how I clicked the send button on the email I wrote and waited for the response.
My initial email did not start the same old friendship connection again
Other than that one friend, I heard back from everyone else.
Since the email, I also connected with some of my old friends through zoom or FaceTime calls.
Arranging the day/time for us to connect was a work in itself- different time zones, various platforms, phone calls vs video calls, setting different day/ time, changing / updating dates and times…they were becoming work.
However, all the effort I made was worth it; I was able to connect with my old friends again.
The joy I felt about the reconnection was short-lived and replaced it with uneasy feelings: uncomfortable, uneasy, non-effortless. All the negative feelings I associate with difficult relationships.
Maybe it was me or it was them, or maybe I was imagining it. One certainty I have about those calls was that it felt different…it was not the same comfortable conversations I had with them in the past.
Although my initial email produced almost a hundred percent response rate, my follow-up messages suggesting to connect through phone calls or video calls were less than stellar.
Instead of getting specific answers to my date/time question for our get-together, I received the general will check with my schedule and get back to you responses from some of them.
It has been a few weeks since then… I am still waiting.
My old self (the one who screams the friendship should not be a work) would have been disappointed, upset, resentful, and even regretful for sending the initial email.
However, the new and improved me feels different.
Maybe it has to do with the wisdom of getting old, or the recognition of how our lives had changed since our carefree, single life in NYC or considering possibilities that they may be going through a difficult time as I did with my dad’s passing.
This time, I am focusing on being grateful for the connection I once had, and also to reconnect after all these years.
Felt exactly the same (with some friends)
The adventure of reconnecting with old friends also produced something I always believed in about certain friendships; a feeling of comfort and ease as if the time had not passed.
With some friends, it felt exactly the same.
Although it has been 13 years and many changes happened in our lives (with some gray hairs along the way), it felt as we were back in that time.
There was an easiness to our conversation I recognize from our old times.
While listening to their life stories and how much their lives evolved over the years, I came to realize my single girlfriends whom I used to hang out are now mothers with ever-shifting priorities.
Although our lives had veered in different directions, they were the SAME friends with whom I shared many gossips, dinners, and even many more coffees in our old life.
The feeling of effortlessness did not happen with every friend I contacted. It is difficult to describe why I came away with the easiness with some friends but not with the others.
I still believe in quality over quantity when it comes to friendships.
One adjustment I made on that ubiquitous truth is that my attitude change towards the “quality” part of friendships. I came to realize that even quality friendships require effort to sustain, especially in long-distance settings.
Without it, it can slowly die.
2020 has been a significant year for me and I’m not talking about the pandemic.
It is the year I lost my dad who had been a huge influence on my life: parent, teacher, mentor, the biggest cheerleader, and the best friend.
Losing my best friend made me recognize the importance of other friends, especially the old ones who had tremendous influence in the past as well as would be in the future.