Do things really change that much?

We’re always underestimating the power of physical distance. We underplay it potential, understate its capacity to shift and modify equations, and tell ourselves that distance really doesn’t change anything. We force ourselves to believe this, time and again going against the natural course of things, to prove that no matter how much things seem to have changed, they will forever stay the same.

Except, until one day you realise how far you’ve come from the truth.

Try as I may, it is impossible for me to put down in words the extent to which being physically distanced from the people in my life has changed my relationships with them. The hows and whys of being physically separated from everything I knew and held to be mine are not describable. All I know is things change. They just do.

Physically and emotionally, separation does strange things. Nothing prepared me for it. It is something that has happened gradually over time, and is sometimes hugely apparent, sometimes stealthily sly and elusive. But very much there.

A couple of days ago, the Bride’s post on fellowship brought a lot of these thoughts back to the surface. Because I realise time and again that while most of the acceptance of change, enjoying the new city, finding my feet again was a very soothing and liberating experience that happened fairly easily, the one change I found difficult to come to terms with was my changing sense of fellowship. I was never the kind to have a big circle of friends. The few I have/had I can count on one hand. And I hold them close, despite distances and being spread across the country. To say that feeling of security has undergone dramatic change, would be a gross understatement. Because change doesn’t begin to describe what I feel.

You can’t simply call it change when it feels like a part of you died and a newer (maybe old-new?) self came back alive, can you? Because as things changed with me, I felt parts of my personality evolve and take shape, I felt more disconnected with the few friends I previously felt super close to. And I found myself questioning over and over, how did things change that much?

Something about being delicately plucked out of the happy flower bed you once belonged to and being re-potted in a new garden, can be both liberating as well as overwhelming. And that’s how it was to move cities at the ripe old age of 25. Sense the heavy sarcasm when I say ripe old, because it was an age when I was pretty set in my ways. Life was on track and I was moving along the straight path (albeit slightly unhappily), without any intention to rock the boat. And it was much the same when it came to my circle of friends, who I vibed and socialised with.

When life changes dramatically, it is but natural to look at things anew. Views on how I want to steer my life, what interests me, what I value and the like have suddenly become crystal clear. And I find that the more I steep myself in this newness, the more distanced I feel from the person I was and the people I used to get along with.

Can change really change people that much?

While this wasn’t east to accept at first; because it meant suddenly finding myself at sea with nobody on my side and nothing to hold on to; it is much easier to understand accept now. Being faced with considerable differences of opinion with friends you once agreed on with everything, shows you that things change, and where they now stand. It shows you that there will come a point when you suddenly find out that you want to cherish a new development in your life, with yourself first rather than the person you once went to with every little update. It means you will realise one day that you only enjoy going out drinking and indulging in mindless banter some of the time, rather than all of the time. Sometimes its a comes in the form of a rude shock when you realise the friends you once felt completely in sync with, the ones you shared everything with, will not feel the same anymore. Things change. People change. And it is best to accept it and move on.

Like I said nothing prepared me enough. It is the sort of change we underestimate. Until there comes a time when the change is so stark and apparent, and the gap between where you were and where you are is so wide, that it becomes much easier to stand at the edge, look out and see all the friends you once knew and held close standing before you, far far away, on the other bank. It becomes abundantly clear, which ones you’re still holding on to. They’re the ones who call a spade a spade, acknowledge this change and move with you. The ones who don’t depend on everyday phone calls as a sign of still being in touch. They’re the ones who I can chat with even after weeks of not having spoken, and know that nothing has changed and there is always something in common that binds us. They’re the ones I have found new wavelengths with, because our friendship grew beyond the realm of the teenage bonhomie we once shared. And then there are the new ones. The ones I made in this new phase of life. Some in Panjim. Some through the blog. People I meet every week, some once, twice, some never. Yet, with them I share a deep bond, deeper than with some of the friends I have known all my life.

Things change, and you realise that your definition of the friends you depend on no longer stays limited to the people you serially hang out with. Its the people with whom you can effortlessly move from one phase into another. With them there is a mutual acceptance of life having shifted gears, and things inevitably moving with it. I find I have less in common with those that stick to the old me. I have no patience for those who cling to old grudges, harbour bitter old fights and petty teenage feelings. In moving on, I feel I have quickly shed the tenacity I once had, of indulging in long-drawn conversation, justifying myself to repeatedly fix a strong basis of trust and friendship. I no longer want to entangle my friendship with the complexities of ego-battles, emotional-dependencies and personal-complexes. The few friends I have now, are hassle-free, we understand each other minus the burden of past, without the pressures of the future. And we know that when the time comes and we need to reach out, we’ll be there for each other, no questions asked.

Over time i have seen the very crux of my sense of fellowship crumble and take shape again. In a completely new, changed avatar.

How do things change so much?

I’ve asked myself the question over and over again, these past three years. Several events have brought the thoughts back to mind. And finally I found the answer yesterday.

we change

Things don’t change. We do.

Some of my friends get that. Some don’t. It’s something I used to break my head over. To explain, convince, validate and justify what this change is. But like I said before, it is inexplicable. I cannot put it in words. Those who see it, know it, and we’re fine. We’re able to move on like nothing really changed. But for those, the hurt of having to let go of the past and move into the future will forever be a cog in the wheel. And painfully, I find I have less and less time to waste in waiting around and holding on. I’ve let go and moved on.

Things don’t change. We do. Because we must.

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30 thoughts on “Do things really change that much?

  1. I found your comment and this post interesting, because for me its been the opposite. I find I cannot find new friends I relate to and who get me and I get as much as the old ones, who are unfortunately spread out geographically.

    But what you describe about change makes total sense. I have one friend who has changed a lot, not necessarily in a bad way but in a way I cannot really accept or relate to beyond a point. I probably should be letting go, no hard feelings, but she still makes the attempt to keep in touch (which is something to be treasured today) and I find it hard to let go.

    I think the most stereotypical version of this happening is when one becomes a parent. Your life changes and you are not going to be the same, no matter how hard you try. Understandably, there are people who cannot adjust to it. I have a set of truly adaptable friends here but I can see that the changes in our life are stretching their tolerance levels. Maybe we will find an equilibrium, maybe we won’t but I cannot fault them for being on a different life track, nor should they fault me.

    My situation may also be that the crux of personality formed in my early 20s, as did a lot of my friends. So we still are, at the core, who we used to be then, and if we have evolved it has been along similar lines. Like we have all mellowed together. Also, my friends didn’t face the full force of the other dramatic change in my life – having children – because they were in a different city so we weren’t challenged in that way. But they have accepted the me that falls asleep on a couch at midnight because I am no longer trained to boogie all night.

    • I know moving cities can by no means be compared directly to the kind of change having babies brings to your life. But this is probably the first of many defining changes in my life. Its what has shaped me, made me who I am. And in that sense THIS is the crux of the personality that has formed, which is probably why it has had a substantial impact on a lot of my relationships. I find that amongst my friends, those who have had similar (and varying) changes in their life, I have a lot sync with, but there a lot from my life in Bangalore whose lives have not changed/moved at all, I find it increasingly hard to even hold conversation with them. There are some who I don’t even call when I go back home, and there are others I meet everyday when I am in Bangalore. It used to make me sad earlier, but I figured that its not a bad thing. In life we find our niches where we are most comfortable and for many people their lives were already alright. Mine wasnt back then, and this is the change I sought for myself, so it is ME who has changed, not them.

      • As for friends who have babies, I have seen both types (the friend who got lost in mommyhood and the friend who has managed to make it work). I don’t fault the first one but I do doff my hat at the second one and value her so much more because she made an effort. Living abroad, with little help with a baby can’t be easy, but she made an attempt and I never once lost sight of the 21 year old whom I shared my love for so many things, with. Also, with all due respect to mothers, I find it a little offensive when the motherhood excuse gets stretched beyond a point – once the kid is 4 years old and in school, if you continue to offer that excuse to me then I am going to judge that friend for it. Surely sparing an hour or two for a friend, not more than twice/ thrice a year is not asking for much? I’ve also seen people sometimes assume that single/ not-yet-mommy friends wouldn’t want anything to have to do with the babies – maybe I am the kind of friend who wants to meet you WITH the baby. How will you know unless you checked?

        • I hear you, even though I haven’t faced the friends-getting-lost-in-mommyhood thing as yet. Maybe its because I have consistently had and been closer to more male friends than female ones. But I have faced it when they started dating someone, and that line is a tricky one to cross, so I often just backed off a bit rather than continued to be a normal, demanding friends.

          But thinking aloud, I think if a close friend of mine were to change her life dramatically around to suit her new life because of marriage/husband/moving cities etc, I think with this little experience in hand, I would be a little more tolerant than I might have been a few years ago.

          This may also have to do with the fact that I feel I have generally eased out and become tolerant of people in general over the last few years. I have fewer knee-jerk and dramatic reactions to peoples choices and behaviour. I used to be the kind who would be upset for days if spoken to rudely or treated badly. I don’t take these things as personally anymore, nor do I accept being trampled all over like I used to.

          One of the biggest things I learned from VC is what he repeatedly tells me: “live and let live”. And as cliche and silly as it sounds, I have found that it has helped me tide over many instances that would otherwise have affected me hugely and left me dejected and upset for days on end. It has saved me a lot of heartache and effort in salvaging friendships that are very obviously over. The old me would have tossed and turned and lost sleep over it. Now I find it easier to accept, let go and make peace, minus the hatred.

  2. *nodding head vigourously at what you are saying*
    I also realise that as long as were in college, our lives and hence all changes, ran parallely. ALL of us went from school to college and hence the path was the same. It is after college, as we branch out and our lives begin to take drastically different turns, that the cracks start to show. Someone gets married at 22, someone moves abroad, someone else decides to move out of home and live elsewhere – these can cause huge shifts in perspectives. Like you said, as long as everyone accepts the change and yet remains secure in the fact that the basic bonds of friendship will remain (albeit taking very different forms from the one we are used to), the relationship stays. The others just drift away and die – some, noiselessly and some, heaving and screaming.

    • Youre so right. Your comment has summed up the last 10 years of my life actually. From school to college and a few years after, nothing really changed for me. Not even marriage brought about a massive change. I had pretty much the same set of friends, we did the same things together, and life was a straight road. It is only after I moved and settled into myself here, that these differences became so stark.

      And that last line? Spot on. Personally, I am so sick and tired of the heaving and screaming. In some cases for me, it has turned some pretty awesome memories so bitter, and makes me wish they didnt happen in the first place. It has gotten so tiresome, I want nothing but to be left alone, because it is amply evident there is NOTHING left to fight for.

  3. Even though I don’t have many years of experience to draw from,what you said is true.
    But it’s so…difficult to let go.Because none of us actually want to.And when nature decides to do things her own way,it’s difficult to adjust and finding those friends who adjust easily,understand and are always there in the end…really hard.

    • Its not so much just “nature” actually. A lot of it is slow, conscious, deliberate changes that one seeks to make in life. And as we grow I think it is natural to outgrow some things and long for certain others. This is more a part and parcel of growth and the choices we make, I think.

  4. Moving cities, having babies, growing – it helps you to separate out your true friends from the ones who just had a cameo to play in your life. Often, it helps you realise that the present is all you have in common with some people and when yo no longer share the same city/ workplace/ life-stage, there is really not that much left to talk about.

  5. Great post – I think its healthy to move on and try to find new friends that fit your life. Not everyone will understand or empathize with every change you make to your life. Friendship cant be forced like that. I am happy that you and I can still share the occasional chat when we haven’t seen each other or heard each other’s voices in the last 5-6 years (maybe more even ??) It’s so healthy.

  6. Very interesting and although I agree with you, that its not things it’s us .. things also play a big hand in that

    As I wrote on your guest post , I can understand a bit what you are saying, I packed my bags and came to a different nation all together, and yes i have changed a lot during my stay here but that is also because of various things :) for example whereas it was easy for me to take a day off work back home, here in this second home I have to think twice to do so …

    although I expect that when i go to india all my friends will drop everything to be with me , and they do it always, yet I also know that i will not be able to do the same when they come here to visit me, which they know too :)

    Will you believe if I say that its now after almost a decade of staying here in uk that I have made a couple of Good friends who I know will stand by me through the good and the bad.. earlier maybe i was too busy getting my life in shape.. But I still miss my old friends and I will give anything to be with them for sure ..

    ooops have i gone on a tangent here :)

  7. This was very interesting. When I first moved away from home, at 17, I faced a lot of conflict in my friendships because all of us were staying away from home and evolving as young adults. And yet, I hung on tightly to those friends, even hiding things from them so that it was easier for them to accept me. It was only many, many years later that I found it in me to accept that I have changed and so have they – and it’s best to be ourselves with each other and see if our friendship survives the changes to our personality. It sometimes did, it sometimes didn’t.

    It used to hurt terribly when my friends drifted away from me or vice versa. Or even my sister or other people I cared about. But I feel that in many cases, it’s a cycle – I was never close to my sister when we were children, then we were incredibly close for about five years, then we drifted apart for another five, now we are very close again. And I see this trend with many of my childhood friends too. It’s possibly because I’m not very set in my ways and I’m very open to change, so I’m possibly changing my personality a lot. Or it’s possibly because of the more practical reason that I move cities all the time!

  8. Continuing where I left off in the previous comment…..so actually the realisation that a lot of the relationships in my life have a cycle has made it so much easier for me to accept when people drift away. It’s a good thing I guess, because it makes me more open to change than I otherwise would have been…

    • Hmm how interesting.. I think despite all our varied experiences whether with changing cities, choosing friends, making decisions — the general theme of “growing up” (ugh how i hate the term) seems to be learning to accept all kinds of change..

      Funnily, right after I wrote this post, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy which was all about change and how the only real way to move ahead in life is to learn to accept it.. Trash TV suddenly got smart!

  9. Pingback: With you I’m born again | hAAthi

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