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.”
Sherry great story. The last few years I have been reconnecting with a lot of my old friends and it is truly rewarding. Thank you for sharing
I’m happy to hear that, Larry. Thanks for the kind words and Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Great article Sherry. Definitely something we can all relate to. Good reasons to reconnect. Even after a long time of no connection there are those with whom we can pick up right where we left off……with others it takes more work. I tend to set a fairly high bar for those who are in my ‘friend’ category – Facebook should really choose another designation for online connections – I don’t think there’s any friend I would not welcome reconnecting with. Acquaintances…..maybe, maybe not. Merry Christmas.
I agree with you. And I raise the bar high as well, Mike. I appreciate your comment and wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year!
Interesting article Sherry. Reconnecting can be bittersweet, and usually it’s more sweet when we haven’t “fallen out” with someone. In my industry, we go through the turnstiles through each contractor. I’ve worked for several different companies, and numerous times I end up on projects with familiar faces. Several years ago I befriended a new coworker and we seemed to get along great. Like dust in the wind, our project ended and we went our separate ways… as friends… or so I thought. Fast forward three years and he called me out of the blue. He was promoted to Project Manager and wanted me on his team. Just so happened I needed a job at the time, so it was perfect timing. About a year later he decided he liked playing “big shot” with his ego and decided to berate me in front of my peers for staying late. I was there to HELP the team meet deadline. I was on my own personal time… Although it was nice of him to offer me a position, you can’t pay me enough to eat shit. I left that job three months later, and I highly doubt I will reconnect on that person… Like you say – people come in and out of your life. I just assume leave them out once they tip their hand…
Who the hell berates someone for staying late? Someone who is envious of your talent, that’s who. Someone who is probably above his or her head and lacking in self-confidence. Like my last “creative director, who couldn’t direct herself out of a paper bag” and used phrases like, “case and point.” And who ultimately cost me my job. I’m sorry that happened to you, my friend.
I love your article, Sherry! There are many people I can think of off the top of my head that I think about. I am not sure how we separated or got separated but that is indeed what happened. I do now and again think about getting back in touch but then again I am not sure if I want to. Their lives, feelings, etc. have all changed. None of us are who we were back then. One day if the mood strikes me I will try to catch up with them through Facebook or an e-mail as that is the method that feels safest to me.
Thank you, Joel! Trust your instincts, my friend. Or just give it a shot. You never know!
Its something I have to think about. I am not sure if I am ready to do this now or if I will ever be ready. There is a lot of stress right now so.I have to wait until I am calmer. Thank you, Sherry for your advice
Then that’s exactly what you should do. Wait.
Thank you, Sherry
I enjoyed this essay, Sherry. I appreciate the invitation to reconnect with people. Maybe I’ve had a unique life journey, but I’ve had way too many experiences of being ghosted by people-even when I “pursued” them including my best friend from childhood. I’ve also been betrayed by many people, thrown right under the bus. (But I’m no longer a victim-just what happened) What I concluded from that uncomfortable “flapping umbilical cord” pursuit of others from a kind of “begging” them to reconnect, to “love” me again-was that my pursuit was from a deep hunger that seemed insatiable. I think both healthy and unhealthy people run like the wind away from that kind of desperation—like don’t go grocery shopping when you’re ravenous…. I no longer chase people. Thank goodness.
Over the years, I, thankfully, jumped full into healing my own wounds, getting the support from professionals that I clearly needed. I learned to bravely walk away from really toxic people/systems including my entire family of origin. This was not ever a cake walk-more like walking barefoot over Legos.
I’ve learned that I’m a loyal and wonderful friend to several beloved ones-many of these friendships are over 20 years old. I take the time to nurture these relationships that mean the world to me. I learned to belong to myself, to make better choices in what I call first tier relationships (I call them beloved ones). “When you know better, you do better.”-Maya Angelou
When a person from my past resurfaces, I embrace the interaction as an opportunity to stay open-hearted to the person they are now, to possibly reclaim some part of my life story, to share appreciation for the person-what they meant to me-for I often saw the best in others-even the worst of the worst people-part of my challenge of running after people who were quite cruel to me-and I, at times, was unkind to them because of the enormous challenges I was navigating.
Am I “gun shy”? No. Discerning, yes. I’ve become much more discerning about who I move towards and who I hold space for and who I hold compassion for and who I simply walk away from. I no longer have bandwidth for volatile, super fake, chronically angry people as folks I want to befriend. It’s became a new day to recognize that I’m fascinated by self-aware, healthy, whole-hearted, honest, vulnerable, real people who take responsibility for their own lives, own healing.
Everyone I meet has something to teach me about being human, about compassion.
Thank you for this essay, Sherry, because it obviously has me reflecting on my journey with friendships, what it means to have meaningful, healthy, love-filled connections with other people. I love all seven of your reasons to reconnect. I would want to recreate a slightly different list for those of us who have struggled since birth with trauma bonds-and the breaking free of those patterns- learning what healthy attachment/connection actually looks like, feels like.
This is a story in and of itself, Laura, and so beautiful. I, too, have been under that bus several times and am also discerning in my connections. I don’t see any other way to be, frankly. I wrote a story called “The Myth of the Work Friend,” which talks about my being laid off from my job of fifteen years and then being abandoned by co-workers who I viewed as friends, and who I thought viewed me the same way. I learned my lesson! Instead, I was a pariah, as if being unemployed was contagious! I had helped several of these people get hired and still, they didn’t have my back! Again, lesson learned. Thank you so much for taking the time to craft this lovely and insightful response. It means a lot.
I simply loved this, Sherry! I was with you with every word; smiles, nods, and head shakes included. Life IS too short and I have scanned my phone in a line-up with a few people in mind to dial their digits in the next few weeks. Happy holidays and I hope it is fabulous for you!
Oh, that’s wonderful, Maureen! Happy Holidays to you, as well. And, Happy Reconnecting!
Such a beautiful piece, Sherry, and you definitely brought me back… There are some friendships that I think are healthier kept in the past for me. It’s that old saying, we have people in our our life for a “reason, a season, or a lifetime.” I’m not sure, for me, that it makes sense to pull reason/season friends into my healthier life. But you certainly have me reflecting and wondering… Thank you for this!
My sincere pleasure, Kim. I’m glad it resonated with you.