My first best friend and I met during recess, as is often the case. I don’t recall the exact circumstances or how we introduced ourselves. It probably involved booger flicking or farting, the likes of which neither of us had yet observed in any other second graders on the playground before. Whatever seven-year-old chords were struck, we were destined to be best friends for quite some time.
I recall around fifth grade we had both decided on what we were going to do with our futures. The dye was cast and there was no turning back. He had decided he would become an astronaut so he could live on the moon and I was going to be a professional soccer player (Manchester United, I believe, was the team I would play for had they asked nicely). It is this unguarded innocence of being a child and dreaming with no checks or balances that proves why you’ll always be closest to friends you met when you were young.
My first best friend and I drifted apart during high school. One day, I realized that I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year except for passing in halls. It seemed like a mutually unintentional separation at the time. I still don’t fully understand it. However, I can tell you this, we haven’t spoken since and I still think about him quite often at thirty-seven years old. In stark contrast, I think very little of the thousands of people I have met since.
He went on to become a doctor from what I hear. I went on to not play for Manchester United or even the Houston Dynamos.
We seem to make a lot of plans as children, which are hinged upon our imaginations, like fantasy-filled interactions with doll houses, castles, tea party sets, race cars, Barbies, and baseball cards. However, once we finally become adults, we realize there were a lot of unforeseeable events along the way.
Where there was once raw imagination and limitlessness there are now realities and barriers. Here’s the thing, though. If these realities and barriers weren’t in place then we would all eventually be getting job promotions, layoffs, transfers, colonoscopies, clean bills of health, or cancer diagnoses with an adolescent mindset. I think this transformation, or process of hardening, we all go through is perfectly natural, but I also find it tragic that imagination and innocence must be sacrificed for the ability to be fully functioning adults.
Establishing new friendships as an adult is a vastly different arena to play in. We are thick-skinned, we all have our own problems, we have very little time, and the friendships we already have from our pasts are challenging enough to maintain… but they are treasured and worth it.
“I never had any friends later on like the one’s I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
This quote is the final line of Rob Reiner’s 1986 film Stand By Me. It could not be more spot on. A funny thing about getting older is occasionally running into someone from your past and them seeing right through the rigid, stoic, and possibly cynical armor you now protect yourself with. This armor is for the adults you have met after high school and will continue to meet. Unfortunately, this armor gets thicker each year.
Yet, you run into this friend from the past and the armor vanishes in a single moment. You pick up exactly where you left off twenty or thirty years ago and for a priceless moment you get to be innocent and dream like a child again.
Featured photo credit: capes via littleherocapes.com