Friendship: Strangers Again
Have you watched this short film by Wong Fu Productions?
STRANGERS AGAIN: SHORT FILM
This short film brings us through the journey of a typical couple, from the time they first met, the great times they had together, and eventually ending up feeling like complete strangers and not knowing much about each other merely a few months after a breakup.
The funny thing is, this actually happens a lot in friendships as well, albeit being on a much smaller emotional scale.
FRIENDS WHO SEEM LIKE STRANGERS AGAIN
How many times have you met someone, or a bunch of people; with whom you’ve had an absolutely great time together during a particular event or a certain period of your life, but have totally lost contact with today?
People whom if you were to bump into on the street today, you’d struggle to think of something to talk about beyond the usual:
“Hey how are you! It’s been so long!”
Insert long moment of awkward silence and staring at each other blankly desperately searching for the next line…
At this point, if you’re both rushing for time, you would either:
- Move on with a “catch up soon”
which deep down inside, you both know will probably never happen even if you’d liked it to; or if you happen to have to some time to kill:
- Settle on talking about the past
which would take up the rest of the session, and that’s about as far as it goes.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?
I don’t know about you guys, but have you ever wondered why someone whom we’ve had such a great time with in the past can now seem like a total stranger?
Maybe I am more sentimental than most people, but I feel sad whenever something like this happens, to think of how once good friends eventually grow apart and missed out on all the potentially fun times and amazing things that we could have shared and done together.
FRIENDS OF CONVENIENCE
Over the years, I realized that a significant number of the people we meet in life will just be friends of convenience.
In the sense that you will only have a great time and hang out with one another as long as it is convenient for you to do so because you will have to see each other regularly anyway.
For example, if you happen to go to the same school, college, church or workplace.
You will realize that once you move on with your respective lives and it is no longer convenient for you all to hang out, where you no longer happen to meet each other regularly at school or church and extra effort is needed to schedule a catch up or hangout session, you will slowly drift apart, and sometimes years and even decades can pass by without you even bumping into each other again.
Now, it is perfectly normal for people to move on with life and naturally drift apart, plus most people you’ll meet in life are probably just going be passing by anyway.
That is just how life is.
SHOULD WE TRY HARDER TO KEEP SOME FRIENDS AROUND?
However, if there was someone, or a group of people whom you really enjoyed being with, and would love to keep around if you could; wouldn’t it be worth it for us to put in that little extra effort needed to maintain that friendship?
Wouldn’t it be sad if you drifted apart just like that?
Just because you’re caught up with the so-called “busyness” of life, which you’ll later realize are mostly meaningless, endless and dull routines? Just precious days and weeks of your life that’s wasted?
Of course, that would be totally different if you’re one of those out there changing the world every day, but that’s not the case for most people.
In fact, those who are out there changing the world every day are often the ones that would realize how short life is, how little time we actually have on earth and how important it is to spend enough time maintaining friendships and spending meaningful time with people.
Surprisingly, they are often the ones who would put in that extra effort to make a meeting or a catch-up session happen, because they know that it is important, and that if they don’t make it happen now, it probably never will.
MY PARENTS AND THEIR LONELINESS
You know, my parents are much older than me. My mom had me when she was 40 and when my dad was 50, they are 64 and 74 respectively this year.
As a kid, I’ve always wondered why they din’t seem to have much friends.
In fact, it was closer to none. Perhaps it was because they did not have the technology we have today like facebook for them to keep in touch, or perhaps they might be the more shy and introverted type.
But as I met more people and got to know more people who are past their 30s and 40s, I soon realized that my parents were not alone.
The older someone gets, the less friends they would have. They would often reminisce about the good old times, and tell me many stories of the great times that they had with their friends back in the days.
A STORY OF REGRET
But their stories would almost always end with a long, awkward and sad silence.
The point at which they realized they have not the slightest clue about how their friends are doing right now, the friends they so loved and had fun with once.
All I could see in their eyes was regret.
The regret of not putting in that little extra effort to make that long awaited catch-up session happen back then, the regret of letting people who once mattered to you drift away without a fight.
Looking back, they probably regretted choosing that extra few hours of sleep on a Saturday morning over the chance to catch up with a good friend, or that night they turned a gathering invitation down because of their favourite TV show.
It is just a sad, sad sight to behold.
A ROCK-SOLID FRIENDSHIP: AN ILLUSION?
Well, some of us are of the view that really good friends should be able to not meet for a long time but still be able to talk about anything under the sun as if nothing’s changed.
That, to some, is the definition of a rock-solid friendship.
While there is some truth to it, I personally think that for a friendship to remain rock-solid, both parties would still need to put in consistent effort in maintaining the friendship, and that is assuming that sufficient effort has already been put in to build the friendship till a rock-solid state in the first place.
POSSIBLE, BUT RARE
Instances where really good friends are able to not meet for a long time but still be able to talk about anything under the sun as if nothing’s changed requires a really strong foundation for it to be possible.
Such instances are really rare to come by because it takes a really long time to build such a strong foundation, and since most friendships start off as friendships of conveniences, a really long time where it was convenient for both parties to build such a strong foundation so much so that it could last a long time.
Usually, such friends would’ve been our best friends through primary and secondary school, “hometown friends” or our long time neighbours, people who’ve been through enough with you and seen enough variations of you to know your true character, personality and the true you when nobody is looking.
Even so, you probably still meet at least once a year to update each other on your lives, and when you do, you usually spend quite a long time filling each other in, so it’s not really such a “long” time after all.
THE TRUTH IS THAT PEOPLE CHANGE, AND GROW
Even with such strong foundations, if years had passed since you last met or checked in on each other, although it might seem like you are still able to talk about anything under the sun and nothing has changed on the surface, the truth is that deep down inside, you know that you weren’t exactly the same person you were when you last met, and you’ll also find that you’ll have large gaps of knowledge about your friend, that things have changed, and you’ve missed large chunks of each other’s lives and vice versa.
The fact is that people are continuously changing, and continuously growing, because things keep happening to us in life, and every single experience we go through influences and shapes us into the person we eventually become bit by bit, experience by experience, sometimes so minute that we might not even notice it ourselves. But when you look back at yourself from a few years back, you know that you’ve changed somewhat.
So, if years had passed since you last caught up with a friend, no matter how strong the foundation was, there will be a difference.
I know because I’ve been through it.
THE INVISIBLE BUT GROWING GAP, AND BARRIER
Even if you seem to still be able to talk about anything under the sun and have a great time, deep down inside, you know that you are somewhat a different person than you were before.
You’ll realize that your friend doesn’t know about many of the important things that happened to you over the past few years that affected you in many ways. Similarly, you also realized that you do not know about the many important things that happened to your friend over the same period and you’re just starting to find out.
Of course, all will be fine if there was enough time for the both of you to fill each other in on all the details during your catch-up session.
THE LIMITATION OF TIME
But that is often not the case, unless you happen to have week-long getaway catch-up sessions. Usually, all we get is a few hours over brunch, or a few hours over a party, which is definitely not enough to fill each other in on all the significant events that happened to us over the last few years which affected us in different ways.
In the end, most of us would rather just focus on talking about the good old times we had together, the more exciting things that are happening in our lives at the moment and just briefly skimming through the major events that happened to us over the years, simply because we want to keep the mood as lively as possible and doing so is the easiest way to have a good time in such a limited time.
RECOUNTING AND FILLING SOMEONE IN IS TIRESOME
You will also realize that it is extremely tiring and tedious to recall and recount things that has happened to you some time ago, especially so those less happy things that likely affected you the most, so most people would rather just skip that altogether or if they do mention it, they mention it briefly.
While nothing much might have changed in a few years between the time the both of you met, the undeniable fact is that you would have left out quite a lot in your short brunch session that was mainly spent reminiscing about the good old days, updating each other on the few exciting stuff that’s coming up and instagramming about the food and how happy you are to meet each other, and that gap is bound to widen if your next catch up session is going to be another few years down the road.
WHEN IT IS TOO LATE
By that time, the gap might be wide enough for you to feel that there is a substantial barrier and gap between the both of you, and you’ll realize that although you still like each other as friends and as people, you simply do not know each other as well, are not as close and are not as comfortable to share as much with each other anymore.
If you’re lucky, the both of you would do something about it and be regularly involved in each other’s lives again.
Otherwise, the both of you would just slowly remember each other as “this really nice friend I had since some time ago”, but they would cease to be someone you would be able to talk about anything under the sun to or someone you would call when you really need a friend.
EFFORT IS NEEDED TO MAINTAIN ANY FRIENDSHIP
So yes, if you’ve managed to build a rock-solid friendship, you can probably afford to not meet as often to maintain the friendship.
But you will still have to meet every once in a while and have quality catch up sessions to fill each other in on your lives and build new experiences together, otherwise your once rock-solid friendship would slowly but surely fade as well.
THE CASE FOR MOST FRIENDSHIPS
However, most friendships are nowhere near rock-solid to begin with when we moved on with our lives and it no longer became convenient for us to build such friendships, that is where more effort is required from both sides to not only maintain such friendships, but also build such friendships and really get to know each other better.
Now, I am not saying that friends need to meet every other week to successfully maintain a friendship, or that we should try to build a friendship with every single person whom we’ve ever met in our lives, because that is simply not possible as we only have 24 hours in a day and have a maximum capacity of friendships we can maintain in our lifetime.
DO IT FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE WORTH IT
All I am trying to say is that if there was someone or some group of friends you’ve made whom you’d really love to keep around, maybe it would be worth it for us to put in a little more effort in maintaining such friendships to at least try to stay involved in each other’s lives.
It doesn’t require too much of our time, perhaps just an occasional whatsapp convo or fb chat to check in on each other, coupled with a casual brunch, coffee or outing every few months or each year.
These alone would be sufficient.
But of course, not everyone would want to maintain such a friendship with you, and I’ve also realized that although some would love to, they do not understand how easy it is to part ways with someone forever, and how huge a difference simple little gestures like these can help prevent that from happening yet.
So yes, it can still be hard, but at least you can say that you’ve tried your best, and have no regrets.
THE VIDEO THAT GOT ME THINKING
As I was watching this final scene from this episode of How I Met Your Mother (Season 9, Episode 21, 16:30 onwards), I just realized how true Ted’s words were, that it is so easy to part ways with someone forever, and I mean FOREVER!
It just made me realize what a waste it is to part ways with someone you truly cared about and would’ve loved to keep around just because you were too “busy” being caught up with the apparent “busyness” of life.
It reminded me that it was absolutely worth it to put in that little more effort to check in on someone from time to time and catch up with someone over brunch or coffee regularly, although most people, especially those who are below 35, are still too young to realize this yet.
DO SOMETHING BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE
So friends, if you’ve met someone, or some group of friends whom you’ve had a great time with and would love to keep around, please do something about it!
Ring them up right now, drop them that facebook message, before you realize how easy it is to part ways with them forever, because then, it will be too late.
When you’re old, retired, and your children and grandchildren are all busy living lives of their own, you’ll be glad that you still have a bunch of friends who truly know you, whom have been with you for the most part of your life, whom you can still hang out and share your lives with.
And most importantly, that you won’t have any regrets about letting someone whom you’d love to keep around slip away for silly reasons such as being too caught up in the “busyness” of life during your younger days.
“You will be shocked kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever.
That’s why, when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it”
– Older Ted Mosby