Last year, I was contacted by a woman with whom I worked, many years ago. She is an artist and asked if I had any interest in teaming up with her for an ongoing series of satirical, political pieces for an online zine called The Flake News.
When we first met, we worked at a marketing agency in downtown Chicago. I had migrated from public relations and journalism because I was ready for a change, and because being a “copywriter” had a certain sexy appeal to me. (Hello, “Mad Men!”)
Well, any sexiness that I had assigned to this particular career move evaporated during my interview when I found out that I would have to write copy for, among other pedestrian pieces — envelopes! You see, this particular company specialized in direct marketing for credit card companies. In other words, “junk mail,” folks. I took the job because the guy who interviewed me was a mensch and because I needed it. Plus, it was in a cool locale: The John Hancock Building, right on Michigan Avenue, otherwise known as the “Magnificent Mile.”
Sharon was freelancing there as an art director. I was hired full-time to write copy and we became a team. Words and pictures. Pictures and words.
We connected pretty much immediately. You know that feeling when somebody “gets” you, and you them? That’s what happened with us. We had the same twisted sense of humor and self-deprecating attitude when it came to our work. A running joke centered around the fact that, damn near every project was composed of a credit card solicitation letter and an envelope that HAD to trumpet “You’re Pre-Approved!” on the front. That cracked us up to the point where we literally, could not look at each other in meetings, or risk dissolving into laughter so intense, our bladders would…well, you get it.
People come and go in our lives. Rifts, relocations, ambivalence — there are many reasons why we allow friends, and even family, to simply drift away, or do the drifting, ourselves.
Often, the only reason that a once-strong connection dissolves is life, itself. The passage of time, coupled with inattention. And “being busy.” That is a handy, universal excuse for damn near everything, these days. “Oh, Joe Blow passed away? I meant to get in touch with him, but I was just so busy.”
My husband often comments that, over the last few years, I’ve become truly adept at re-establishing connections with former friends and co-workers. I couldn’t say why, exactly. To what should I attribute this? Aging? Fear of loneliness? Or, perhaps, this urge is merely the result of a simple longing for what “once was.”
On the other side of this burnished coin, is the reality that, there are people who are just too freakin’ toxic to deal with. You know what I’m talking about. These are the people, who, if we never heard from them again — it would be too soon.
Actually, as I write this, I have someone specific in mind. A woman I met at a party, like, forever ago, when we were both single and both, in a sh*tty frame of mind because of something our boyfriends did or didn’t do. I can’t remember, now. What I do remember is that we spent the night laughing, getting high, man-bashing, getting high…
After that night, we became inseparable. We spent long, lazy days at a beach in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago — I was between jobs and she “came from money” — and nights, at our favorite watering hole. And after, we’d return to our respective apartments and talk on the phone into the wee hours. These were conversations so lengthy, that I often passed out in the middle, only to awaken the next morning with the phone still in my hand. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, day, month, when things started to sour. My friend had an air of entitlement about her. She was an only child whose Dad made a lot of dough and to whom having a job was not a necessity. She did have a freelance gig as a photo stylist, so she wasn’t a complete slug.
Eventually, we broke up. An odd turn of phrase, maybe, but that’s exactly what it was.
Yes, “entitlement.” That, more than anything, really stuck in my middle-class craw. Whenever we were at a restaurant together, I’d cringe at the way she addressed the waitstaff. And then she became possessive of my time. And truth be told, more than a little needy. We started having “words.” And then, long breaks in between even more “words.” Eventually, we broke up. An odd turn of phrase, maybe, but that’s exactly what it was. Because we tend to filter our memories over time, I’ve reached out to my old buddy several times, over the years, and it always turns out to be a bad move. She’s never married, her parents are gone and she really has no family, to speak of. I know she has to be lonely, and I feel bad about that. I do, but if anything, this lack of human connection has resulted in her becoming even more flinty than what I remember.
Whenever I get back in touch with her, she tells me that she thinks about me all the time. And then, unknowingly, I’ll say something that pisses her off and then, another three years go by. Or five. So much for breaking the ice.
Fortunately, in my attempts to resuscitate old relationships, the above has been the exception rather than the rule. It feels good to let someone know you think about them and care about what has transpired in their lives. And vice versa. In spades.
Are you thinking about someone, right now? Someone with whom you shared some great memories, but haven’t gotten up close and personal with, in a long time? Don’t put off getting in touch, any longer. Life is just too damned fragile.
From elite daily, here are seven reasons why you should reconnect with old friends, posthaste:
1. For the “nostalgia” factor, alone. Who doesn’t love nostalgia… thinking about “the way we were?” Reconnecting brings with it, a sense of youthfulness, and also, when we allow warm memories to break through the “noise,” we can’t help but feel good.
2. Learning about someone’s “story” can be fascinating. We’re normally so focused on ourselves, that our perspectives shrink. Wouldn’t it be fun and interesting to find out what an old bud has been up to? What roads they’ve traveled? You might even learn something!
3. You’ll be reminded of the person you once were. And, of the dreams you had, and possibly, shared.
4. Reconnecting may remind you that it’s harder to make friends now, than when you were younger. A true friendship is difficult to establish. As we get older, we talk ourselves into believing that the many “acquaintances” in our lives are actually friends. Uh…no. So not the case.
5. You may learn that you were right to “disengage” in the first place. In other words, your judgement may have actually improved over time, if you reconnect with an individual and have a “What was I thinking?” moment. Give yourself snaps for trying, regardless.
6. The friendship may actually continue, and thrive. One of the reasons we lose touch with our old compadres is that we get overly psyched about making new ones. Time to rekindle!
7. Friendship is fundamental to our lives. And good people are hard to come by. So, if you’ve cut a friend loose, make the effort to understand why. The same holds true if you make the decision to keep them in your life. Whatever your choice, make sure it’s a healthy one.
You know my friend, Sharon? The one I mentioned earlier? When she called, and we talked and laughed like we did all those years ago, it was like time had simply, stopped. What sweet, sweet, relief it was, from the tumult of daily life. And thankfully, still is.
I guess that means we’ve been “Pre-Approved.”