We haven’t spoken in a long time, probably years, but I’ve been thinking about you a lot over the past couple of weeks. I should mention, by the way, that “you” are a collective in my mind, an aggregation of blurred faces that have come to encapsulate this odd feeling of nostalgic loneliness I have been experiencing these last few weeks. “You” are the friends from elementary school, the people I graduated from high school with, the friends who both faded from my life and tore themselves out. “You” are the people I don't see anymore, but that does not mean that you did not make a large impact on my life.
Since the New Year, I have been thinking a great deal about how my words and my actions affect the people around me. Reflecting on my word choice and how my actions might be perceived has led me to think about you, the friends I left behind.
I wonder how you are doing. I wonder what you are like now. I wonder if you still think about me.
I wonder if you know how you have impacted my life.
You have shaped me into the person I am today. That is an expression that is used far too often, but I insist on the cliché because it is true. Friend, both your presence and your absence in my life have influenced who I am.
As my childhood friend, you helped me realize how to communicate and connect with other people. You helped me explore my creativity. You were the first person I cared about who was not my immediately family. You taught me to be accepting and tolerant of others. You showed me what it feels like to laugh so hard water squirts out your nose and your belly aches.
As the friend who faded into the background of my life, you taught me that time can be fleeting. You taught me the importance of taking the time to laugh with friends. Please know that I did not stop talking to you because I did not like you. We grew up. We went our separate ways. The club organization we were a part of dissolved, or one of us stopped attending practices or meetings for various reasons….life seized us by the hand and pulled us in two different directions, but I am still so grateful to have known you, even if it was only for a few moments.
As my high school friend, you helped me learn what it meant to grow up. The cover photo of this article is from our graduation because graduating with you was such a life changing and important experience in my life. You helped me realize who I am. You helped me grow up. You watched me get my drivers license. We experienced school dances, drama, tears, hardships, death, homework assignments, college applications, and final exams together. You were my support system and I could never have gotten through those four years without you. We may not talk anymore, but that does not mean that I do not wish you the very best. I catch glimpses of your life occasionally on social media, hints, and flashes of a selfie here, or an announcement about a new job or internship there. I hope you know that I am proud of you.
As the friend who tore yourself out of my life, you taught me that pain is endurable and finite. You taught me that sometimes there are people that you have to let go, for your own health and theirs. I do not regret knowing you or loving you. I hope you know that I still think about you, and I wish only the best for you.
I am writing you this letter, collective friend because I think that it is important to acknowledge the people who shape our identities. As a society I think we are so focused on ourselves, on the picture-perfect snapshot of our lives: happy selfies with friends on social media, sharing only positive stories on Facebook. I am an optimist, and I embrace the joy that comes from living, but I think that it is also important to acknowledge the variety of people that shape who we are. Yes, I have incredible friends now. I had incredible friends when I was in high school. I have had people who touched my life at one point or another who I do not know now. I want you to know, friend, that you were and are, important to me. Life is fleeting and scary and unsure, and you were a small part of mine. Thank you for that.
Wherever you are now, whatever you are doing, I wish you well.
Thank you for touching my life. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for making me the person I am today.