I made a friend this week. It becomes harder to make friends the older you get. Or is that just a myth I've swallowed? One thing I know is that the older I get the more I've realised how many different ways there are to make friends. That's not to say that it is any easier to make friends; I just realise that there are more possibilities for 'meeting' people who inspire and give something to my life. The world really is smaller now with the web and email. I can feel close to someone I've only typed words to on a computer screen.
Where do most of us meet our friends? At work? At school? There are different kinds of friends, of course. There are those who are going to be there for life, even though you haven't contacted each other for months. There are those you click with fairly quickly and do absolutely everything with all at once and in a flurry until maybe dropping the contact altogether. It's no fun if you're the one that's dropped. There are all sorts of permutations and meaningful relationships inbetween.
We are led to expect that the whole class full of friends at school will gradually dwindle to a handful (that's if you're lucky) of trusted friends once you hit your thirties and beyond - and you're really lucky if your handful includes any of those friends you made at such a young age. Friendships in adolescence are intense. Are websites like Friends Reunited which trade in nostalgia doing so well because many people are desperate to recover some of that intensity of friendship?
I am lucky to have a couple of friends who have travelled with me a long way in my life. I wonder sometimes if the written word is powerful in that. Perhaps it should be encouraged that we write more letters or emails to each other and talk less on the phone. Perhaps it's important to write even to the people we share our homes with and wake up next to. I know a long time ago I rescued one friendship, maybe even formed it as a friendship by persisting in my letter-writing.
But I didn't manage to keep in touch with any of my closest friends from school/university in any way that could be called maintaining a friendship. Not one. I know that some of those friendships could pick up from where they left off, and maybe that's why I'm keen on the idea of a reunion. I had a serendipitous meeting with a very close school friend at a Gay Pride March (of all places) some years ago. The world is small and yet so large. We're distant again now. If only email addresses were permanent ... well ... mine's the same!
Learning to make friends is one of the first and most important lessons for young children, although it shouldn't all be based on 'fitting in'. Keeping those friends takes hard work.
Finding friends, in likely or unlikely places, is still one of the best experiences in the world. Perhaps even more so for me now.