A big perk of living in a tropical island paradise is that multiple people are willing to go to significant trouble and expense to come visit, especially when they are due for an escape!
Recently, two of my oldest and dearest friends independently took last minute trips to visit me in Hawaii.
Each girl stayed for just less than a week, one right after the other, and one even brought along her mom for some Hawaiian fun. Though the hiking, beaches, volcanoes, waterfalls, and caves were all wonderful, I’m pretty sure that these particular friends would have made time to visit me even if I lived in a miserable, boring place too.
Spending such good quality time back-to-back with my friends like this has made me reflect on how our childhood friendships have transitioned into the adult relationships we have today.
It has not always been easy for me to maintain my connections to these two friends. For example, they both stayed close to me, but not really to each other. There were significant and difficult events that permanently changed us; our personalities, emotional needs, and priorities shifted a lot as we grew older. Both went to college much further away from home than I did, and then I moved away from Washington just as they were coming back. One of the girls and I actually haven’t spent more than three consecutive weeks on the same continent since early 2011. There have been boyfriends that have come and gone for all of us, and—in my case—now a husband who is here to stay. And through each new stage of life, I have had to put in effort to get to know my old friends in new ways.
Yet, despite the challenges, here both of my friends were sitting in my kitchen this month—drinking wine, updating me on their lives, and planning our adventures for the upcoming day. I know it is a rare gift to be in your mid-twenties and still be close to the people who came to your 13th birthday party, but something that struck me about both of their visits is that we didn’t actually spend much time talking about the past.
I think it can be tempting when you have really old friends to allow your relationships to revolve mostly around the old times. Remembering your shared history with someone is an important thing, but it can be a problem when your only connection to your friends is the fact that you have great memories of being kids together. I was grateful that my friends and I didn’t have to talk about the past to be comfortable together and that we had plenty to talk about in the present. To me, our almost complete failure to reminisce about our long histories was proof that our childhood friendships had grown up with us into adulthood. While these were the people that I loved and cherished when I was a kid, it is more important that they are also the people that I love and cherish now because of the strength of our friendship.
There was a conversation at the end of the second week that I thought really touched on the complexity of being friends with someone for a very long time. One of my friends, her mom, and I were all browsing a table at a craft fair together when the vendor asked us how we are related. My friend and I paused and looked at each other for a second before replying with two completely different answers. She told him that I was more-or-less her sister while I stumbled over trying to explain why she is an incredibly important friend. Neither response was really the right one. The true relationship between us is something more profound than being either sisters or friends: We have cared for each other for so long and through so many different stages of our lives that we have become essential parts of each other’s being. I don’t think either of us has any idea who we would even be at this point without the other person.
The best part, however, is that my friendships with these women are still ongoing. We continue to have a deep and relevant impact on each other’s lives, even after all this time. As my other friend said when she was leaving, “I feel like we are just pressing pause on what has been one, incredibly long conversation.” And if still wanting to have a conversation with the same person you’ve been talking to for 17 years isn’t a good enough reason to book a last minute ticket to Hawaii, then I’m not sure what is.