The other day I was driving home from upstate New York, the equivalent of a four-hour prison sentence considering how hungover I was. I had spent a three-day weekend drinking just as much as I did sleeping and eating.
I had beers on the beach–beers at the bar–beers on a balcony–beers on a boat–beers in the shower in between destinations–even beers in bed. My brain felt like a cement mixer, full of thick, muddying sludge. The only thing keeping me in check was that I was the one tasked with driving home at the end of the trip; my buddy (we’ll call him Paul) was in the passenger seat releasing a grunt of regretful agony every few minutes.
A couple of hours into the drive I was still piloting my way through the roads in silence when Paul said something that proved his drinking had not quite clouded his judgment.
“You ever think about all the people you have lost touch with?” he said. The question, while surprising at the moment, felt pretty familiar considering it was something I had thought about on more than one occasion.
He went on to tell me about a friend of his whom he was tight with back in high school. They had had some irrelevant argument a year back and he hadn’t spoken with him since. Just like that, someone he developed a strong connection with was out of his life. Sadly, that’s usually how it goes. After he told me his story of friendship lost, we both shared a moment of silence.
It got me thinking about everyone I’ve ever met that I’ve lost touch with. I thought about classmates of mine in high school. I spent four years learning with these kids about the length of a hypotenuse, who led the Confederate Army at Gettysburg, and how to navigate our way through puberty. I then moved on to all of those random acquaintances I met sporadically – kids I played baseball against growing up, my parents’ work buddies, the retired bus driver turned alcoholic who frequented the recreation center I worked at when I was 17.
I ended my unraveling thoughts with my college mates – guys I played drinking games with and shot the shit with at parties, girls I drunkenly hooked up with or fruitlessly tried to pick up at the bar. During those moments, we all shared something special. But could I honestly say I’d see most of them again?
The past weekend had been three days I will never forget, and what made it memorable were the people I was with – three guys from college whom I became friends with through random series of events. Though, it was through that randomness that we became best friends. I thought about them for a moment, and I noticed a reoccurring pattern in my friendship efforts. Despite having such a large friend group coming out of college, there were only about a handful of them whom I consistently got together with.
When I graduated I had a moment of sadness over having to separate from a group of friends I had grown to love over four years. Then I had a moment of optimism. We live in the age of Facebook, group chats, and social networking. It seems easy to stay in touch, to make plans, to see each other regularly.
It’s been a year since I graduated and I am back within driving distance of almost all of those friends I was forced to leave before. I figured by now we’d be going to Red Sox Games, taking camping trips, going on hikes, attending concerts. But the unfortunate reality is that, despite my hopes for better communication, I still don’t see them as much as I’d like to. And that’s on each of us.
Now I am having a moment of clarity. In order to keep those you cherish most close, you have to make a consistent effort. I just had one of the greatest weekends of my life, but it took sacrifice – hours of driving to and from, money spent that I really had to think twice about spending, time taken away from the routine I had gotten comfortable with. It was a sacrifice that I easily could have talked myself out of. The key is getting over that hurdle and understanding that what comes out on the other end is priceless.
Life is tricky. It’s busy, hard, and often a pain in the ass. Many times we are quick to not make that extra effort. But I can’t help but think about if I hadn’t gone this weekend, if I haven’t put in that work, I may have widened the gap of connection even more with friends that I truly cared about. Hassle or no hassle, it’s moments like this weekend that make me realize that it’s always worth it to just put in the work to sustain those close relationships.