On (un)finished friendships…

As I listened to a number of 9/11 remembrances of loved ones lost, it caused me to think about the number of people we’ve lost in our lives that don’t get a special date to remember them by.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of friends who moved away or in some other manner changed the proximity or nature of the contact we had both shared and seemed to value. In each case, what I still miss about them is not so much the relationship as it was, but the potential it had for growth.

I had a call from one of my old buddies last week who’d stumbled upon my website awhile back and happened to be shooting an assignment nearby. Nearly thirty years ago, we were still in our formative years in this business and would get together for hours on end to discuss our industry, philosophy, the nature of human relationships, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and any other topic that bubbled to the surface. What I relished was the heady debate that is only possible in an environment of trust. We were soul mates in the realm of ideas. Our discussions fueled my creative juices. No area seemed off-limits for our questioning. Or so I thought.

My buddy and his girlfriend had been discussing marriage and he appeared to be having second thoughts about the lifetime commitment to this person. He asked me point blank what I thought. I told him. Point blank.

Although I liked her personally, I said they had very different personalities on many different levels and appeared to me to value very different lifestyles. Different personalities can stimulate a marriage. Opposing values can tear the fabric of the relationship.  In what I thought was a brilliant decision, he proceeded to share my observations with her, allowing that they were my thoughts, not his. Not only was I scratched as a wedding guest, she forbade him from having a friendship or speaking with me again. Although I apologized and tried to repeatedly reach out, he wouldn’t speak to me again for years. The loss was a blow to my gut.

I’ve come to view the value of relationships similar to compounding interest on a principle investment. The secret is in regular deposits made over a long time with very few withdrawals. Neither your money nor your relationships are just sitting stagnant. Small deposits and compounding interest in both areas will make one richer. Although investments don’t require on-going deposits to make them grow, relationships do. No interest accumulates on a friendship that is ignored.

As I said earlier, what I miss most about friendships lost is the potential each one had for richness. Because we live in a transitory culture, most of my friendships withered because of career moves that took friends out of the area. Another major shift I couldn’t foresee came when we bought our farm and moved out of an urban center. I’ve learned that proximity does make a huge difference. It was no longer easy or convenient for friends to drop by for a spontaneous visit. It’s been difficult to see the investment we made into so many lives become so challenging to maintain. The relationships we have been able to continue are like gold to us. It requires more effort than ever, but we cherish and protect them.

How ’bout you? Do you find that in the age of so much ability to be “friends” on so many social platforms that real connections and friendships are more difficult than they’ve ever been?

Charles

http://www.charlesguptonphoto.com
On Twitter @ http://twitter.com/CharlesGupton

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