Sometimes you have to walk a different path.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry,” she said as her toddler knocked my glass of orange juice into my lap.
“Don’t worry, its fine,” I laughed.
It was kind of fine, it kind of wasn’t. My skirt was silk and I’d just had it dry cleaned. Dammit.
“Sorry, where were we? You were telling me about your trip to…?”
“New York,” I offered as she frantically mopped up stray orange juice from the table, wiped chocolate from her young son’s face and tried to hurl me a smile all at the same time. She’d become a true multitasking mother.
I decided now wasn’t the perfect moment to tell her that he’d also yanked her dress down and her bra was hanging out. It certainly wasn’t a bra she’d be proud to show off, but as we were in a quiet corner of the café and no one would see, I said nothing and smiled back at her, fondly. It could wait a few minutes.
When did this happen? It seemed like just five minutes ago we were mixing cocktails in her single girls’ apartment, dancing, chatting and laughing as we put layer upon layer of lip gloss on, preparing for a night on the town.
Life was so easy then; we worked hard, played harder and spent our money on shoes. These days I was lucky if I got to see my fave friend a few times a year.
Growing up had meant growing apart, and her world was entirely different to mine now. Our lives became dramatically distinct when she got married and started a family.
While I obsessed about promotions, she was preoccupied with breastfeeding and school holiday activities as she juggled the demands of two young children. For a few years, I found that adjustment hard.
There’s an element of grief in letting a friend go, knowing that life has changed forever and you’ll never have the carefree years again.
Even years down the track, I miss her and I miss ‘us’; what we were as a pair. The friendship chemistry had fizzed effortlessly since we met at school and laughter was so out-of-control-giddy that we frequently had to look away from each to other just to catch our breath again.
We had freedom to fall into fun and loved every giggle of it. Now, we simply don’t have the luxury of time to indulge in it anymore, but just because life has moved on, it doesn’t mean we value each other any less.
I have other friends that I’ve chosen to distance myself from as my interests have changed and I’ve started treading down a different path to theirs. I don’t hang out with ‘party people’ now that I don’t drink anymore. Frankly, I have no interest in spending my time listening to drunken ramblings in crowded, noisy bars, I’d rather be walking on the beach.
The ones who are true friends, whose conversations are interesting when they don’t have a drink in their hand, I’ll see for coffee, sunrise strolls or TV fests with snacks, but we obviously see less of each other now we’re not partying together. I love that what we once bonded over is no longer required to sustain a solid friendship. After all, true friendship isn’t judged on how much time you spend together.
Ultimately, life is all about moving forward, accepting change and looking forward to what’s next. We can’t press pause. As we grow up and grow older, we develop new interests, and with that comes a new friendship wave. People flow into your life and some fall away. Getting used to that comes with practise.
I’ve learnt the trick is giving priority to the ones who are worth hanging onto. When you find friendship where the chemistry is A+, it’s important to reconnect with those people, even if they can’t concentrate on a word you’re saying and have a mucky toddler in tow.
You may not be getting ready for nights out on the town in her apartment anymore, but as it turns out, even when you’re sitting in a café, telling her her bra’s hanging out of her dress, you’ll find yourself laughing so hard together, it will seem as if no time has passed at all.
Comment: Have you grown apart from a friend who’s life has gone in a different direction?