At summer camp, one of my favorite songs was the one where we sang about friendship – you may remember it, too, we promised to stay friends, friends, friends, “we will always be, whether in fair or in dark stormy weather, at Camp (insert name here), we’ll all stay together”?
That doesn’t always happen. Even though Facebook and other social media (this Blog, for example) makes it all too possible for people from our past – friends from camp, school, our jobs, through our kids, to easily find us and seek us out.
Friend me, please?
Often I say no and then feel bad about it.
This has been on my mind lately as I sometimes turn down these overtures. Not that I am Ms. Popularity or anything (hardly, you’d have to look to my husband, Mr. High School Class President who holds that title) but when people I was once friendly with (which is different from being friends with? Or I am getting overly technical here?) reach out to me on social media, I often don’t want to reach back.
Thinking about this while looking towards September, when we (speaking as a Jewish person here) observe our High Holidays, one of which is Yom Kippur, a day of reflection on the past. Strong friendships, and the caring and cultivation of them, have always been very important to me. So why am I hesitant to re-visit my former social circles?
The holiday also calls upon us to make amends to anyone we may have hurt in the past year. Perhaps some of the people I once knew wonder why I didn’t re-connect when they sought me out?
So here goes:
- If I once dated you in high school or college or beyond, maybe the reason I’m reluctant to re-connect with you is because I am a different person now. Or I like to think I am a different person. And if we were to re-connect, I will remember bits about myself I didn’t like or experiences we had that I’m not so proud I had. I want to go forward, not backwards in my relationships. Hope you understand.
- Or maybe you and I were pals in our Young Mom days, when our kids had so much in common – and now that they are young adults, they are on very different paths. I don’t want to be reminded of those early days when I thought that my child, who still struggles with mental health, wouldn’t always have those struggles. I liked you very much, Old Mom Friend, and I am glad you and yours are doing well, but it is tough for me to hear your news about you and your possibly perfect young adults. Too hard for me to listen, too many comparisons to make. So no, but thank you, to your friend request.
- Then there are those people I worked with (I’ve only had 3 lawyer jobs in my life, I’m a loyal type.) I hesitate to re-connect because I’m not who I once was. You may know that I had to leave my law firm before I wanted to, before I expected to, because of cardiac-related-infections, complicated. (I’m fine now.) But I’m not quite as snappy and quick in my thinking (interestingly it’s mostly when I talk, less so when I write), as I once was. Can you detect that? I worry that you might be able to notice that the new me isn’t the old me. While I’m fine with my “new normal”, it isn’t what I thought it would be. Perhaps better if you stick with recalling the way I used to be?
The irony does not escape me that I am writing about my life on this Blog, in a careful sort of way, or trying to, – and it is open for all to read – while hesitating to re-connect with people who I once knew in real life.
I think there is a distinction. I greatly prize and carefully nurture the many in-person, friendships I have, all of which have gone through significant bouts of both fair and stormy weather. But with online-only friends you have to stay on your best “party manners” at all times. Or at least I feel an obligation to do so. Long-term pals are more likely to accept as you are.
Pouring my energies into preserving my in-real-life friendships feels more important to me than reconnecting with the past. Subject to change, of course, but as this September approaches, I wanted to let you know, in case you wondered, why I haven’t “friended” you back.