Saying Good Bye and Staying In Touch
Every year kids and teens look forward to summer vacation. The time away from school is a welcome break in routine and a time to socialize and bond with friends. But for one group of teens, the beginning of summer vacation marks the end of an era – the grads. For the senior class, the last day of school before summer vacation is the last day of school ever and this means some pretty big changes.
Gone are the days when friendships were packaged and presented in the easy to navigate format of the school hallways now maintaining friendships, even the best of friendships, is going to take time and effort.
Why? Because the captive audience is gone and everybody is going in different directions; some people are off to college or university, some are out to travel and experience the world, and others are going to dive right into the workforce. Whatever the path your friends are choosing after graduation chances are very good that you won’t all walk the same one.
So how do you maintain the bonds of friendship when you leave the small world called high school and enter the big world known as the rest of your life? It’s not easy and you will lose a few people along the way but there are some things you can do to keep your friendships alive in spite of the exciting changes you are about to experience.
Stay in Touch
This is the first and most important thing you must do in order to maintain your high school friendships. When you were in school staying in touch was easy because you saw each other every day.
Now that you are out of school this will no longer happen and keeping up with your friends will require work. You will have to make phone calls, send emails, text and in some cases snail mail your friends in order to stay in touch.
Now you may be thinking “big deal, I call all my friends every day anyway”, but after high school, the daily phone calls can taper off or stop altogether.
Since you are no longer in school together some friends find that they have little to talk about on a daily basis. Think about it, if you’re at state college and your friend has a full-time job, the two of you are no longer interacting with the same people, you are no longer having the same day to day experiences, and as a result, you won’t have the same depth of conversations about your lives. Your conversations will start to seem more like newsy updates than heart-to-hearts and this can take a toll on some friendships.
Frankly, the more superficial types of friendships rarely survive this change in pace. So the first thing you need to realize is that you will need to work to stay in touch and that some of the friendships you think are deep will show themselves to be rooted in shared experiences rather than a real bond. As the demands on your time increase and you make new friends in your new life you will have to make an important and somewhat difficult choice… which leads us to another step, cleaning house.
Prioritize Your Friendships
This one may seem cold but it is very necessary. When you leave high school many people are looking back; thinking about the things that are going to change, the people they are no longer going to see, the parties that will no longer happen, the events that will no longer be on the calendar, and the friends that may be moving away.
It is a time of mourning and people don’t usually stop to think about the positive changes ahead.
When you move beyond the corridors of your high school you can count on a few very exciting changes in your social world, you will form new kinds of relationships with others and what you come to see as your peer group will expand and evolve. You will make new friends and some of these friendships will be deeper and more fulfilling than you can even begin to imagine. You will fall in love in a whole new kind of way. You will find that age will no longer define who is “above” you and who is “below” you. Your boss may be younger than you, your teacher may be closer to your age than to your parents’, your best friend may end up being a decade older than you and you may fall for somebody much, much younger.
The rules of social interaction will change and the basic building blocks of your relationships will drastically change with them.
As this starts to happen, and it is inevitable, your old high school ties will unravel. Some of your old friends will be stuck in a rut that you may no longer be able to identify with, some may be engulfed by their own new lives with little time left over for the old, and others may be so separated by geography that the emotional distance between you grows to match.
At this point, you will want to make room for the new people in your life and this will require you to rearrange the old. You will likely find that some friendships will completely disappear, others will evolve into acquaintances, and some will become even closer and more important than they were in high school. Take inventory and decide which friendships are most worthy of your time and effort and act accordingly. Changing the faces of your friendships is a normal part of growing up and even though it can be heartbreaking it is something that everybody endures and survives. This brings us to the final step in maintaining the friendships that matter the most… meshing your worlds.
Blend the Old With the New
When you move out into the world and form new bonds with new people it can feel like living in two bizarre parallel universes, each starring you on the same stage but neither one fitting with the other. Your old friendships have a history to them, a wealth of shared experiences that have bonded you together. Your new friendships are built on the excitement of entering a new phase of life and shine with all the hope and promise of your future dreams. Is it possible to take relationships that are based on such different premises and make them work as one?
The answer is yes. Once you have decided on your primary friendships from both your old and new worlds, that is the friendships you are willing to put the most time and effort into building and maintaining, the next big step is bringing these people together.
You will have to play the bridge as you are likely to be the only thing your old and new friends have in common at first. This can be an awkward and uncomfortable place to be but if you are going to bring your friendships together it is a role you must play.
If you are lucky enough for your old friends and your new friends to hit it off right away then count your blessings and enjoy an easy mesh, but if you’re not so lucky and instead of an instant bond between your friends you find yourself facing instant tension don’t panic. Your old friendships and your new friendships don’t have to blend in order to work in your life. If you find yourself dealing with a serious incompatibility crisis resign yourself to living in separate but equal friendship spheres and adjust accordingly.
In order for this to work there are three very important rules to live by: 1) never ditch one group for the other, except in very extreme circumstances – think weddings, birthdays, sickness and funerals – and always stick with the plans you make first, 2) always be honest, don’t lie about who you are with or what you are doing and never act as if being with one group of friends is a burden (even if at times it feels like one), and finally 3) never give up trying to bring the two spheres together, don’t alienate one set of friends for the other on days that pertain to you, on your birthday, your wedding day, at your baby showers, your friends should put aside their differences and be there for you – never compromise in this.
Good Friends Are Worth the Effort
Friendships are complicated but important parts of everybody’s life but good friendships are worth the effort it takes to maintain them. Don’t become discouraged when once easygoing friendships suddenly become major emotional undertakings or when once important friendships suddenly seem trivial. The evolution of relationships is a normal part of your growing up and growing apart is the most common evolution that friendships experience.
There is a saying, a life motto if you will, that fits here and you should think of it whenever you are feeling blue about a lost or changed friendship. It goes like this; “In this life only three things matter; how well did you live, how well did you love and how well did you learn to let go?” Life is about change and even difficult changes can be positive. Friends will come and go but all will teach you something about who you are and who you want to be.
If you lose a friend rather than focusing on the temporary void this may leave in your life reflect on what you have gained by having had that friend in your life at all. It can ease the pain of losing a friend to assign it value and make the memory of the friendship a part of who you are deep down inside.