The song Make New Friends was woven into the fabric of my youth by its ubiquity in Girl Scouts. I have always loved the sentiment, which I have always taken to mean older friends are more valuable. Unfortunately, as an adult, I am seeing that sometimes, those valued old friends change into people we can’t even recognize, and they probably feel the same about me.
During this most recent election cycle, I watched people I have known for decades posting things that demonstrated a painfully self-centered world view that I didn’t expect from them. I have read people whose opinions I value talk about how anyone who voted for Trump is a hate-filled, misogynistic racist, and others who say anyone who supported Hillary was an idiot. These same people seemed willing to listen to people with different points of view in the past, which makes their judgmental comments more distasteful to read. (I am hopeful that most of it was a short-term reaction to an election result they didn’t expect.)
It makes me sad, but these online attitudes and posts are affecting my real-world opinions of some of these long-time friends. For some, particularly work friends, I simply never knew them well, For others, we have simply grown too far apart over the decades, and this is just straw that broke the camel’s back. We have mental images of each other from before we ever had a college diploma, much less jobs, mortgages, spouses, and kids, with a thin overlay based on Facebook posts. There are parts of each other and our histories that we will know as no one else can, but there are even larger parts we know nothing about.
Interestingly, I have found that some of my new friends may be even better friends than people I have known for more years. I recently met an online friend of more than fifteen (15!) years in real life for the first time, and we had a blast. The nearly forty women I have known online (and only online) for fifteen years have gone through a lot together, virtually, over the years. They are real friends, even if we haven’t met in “real” life.
Letting go can be hard, and it can seem like those old friendships should always be the valuable ones, but life changes us all. I have had to accept that I can remain friendly and chat with those old friends, but they are really just acquaintances now. The funny thing is that I have tended to have more male friends for a very long time and wanted a group of women friends. In letting go of those old (mostly male) friends, the ones I thought were “gold” (and who were, in their day), I have found what I was looking for.
I have made new “gold” friends, and I am keeping the old, once-gold-now-silver, friends. And that’s OK, because silver is great too.
As we approach a new year, I feel blessed to have all of my friends, old and new, silver and gold.