Do Friendships come with an Expiry Date?

by Anita Menon

This morning, I received a mail from a friend I haven’t spoken to in close to 4 years. The friend forwarded me a mail chain that we had once written to each other many years ago. The mail chain had close to 14-15 emails; all a testimony to the affection and camaraderie we shared once upon a time. I read through the mail chain couple of times, savouring all the good will and warmth that emanated from it. It took me several minutes to realize that I was transported to a time in my past, to a world where things were so different from what they are now. People were different, circumstances were different and the meanings that I attached to them were different.  At that time of my life, those friendships meant the world to me. I would do anything for those friendships, to keep them, to nurture them and to hang on to the last bits of them. I am the emotional sort. Not the one who breaks into tears for the slightest of reasons but the one who would try to keep relationships from breaking away because they meant so much at one point in time.

Why this rant?

Well that email chain triggered a hot debate in my head for the longest time today. I realized that most friendships that meant the world to me once upon a time, were either dead or irrelevant. Do friendships like many relationships in life come with an expiry date, I wondered for a better part of today.

I looked at my Facebook page and wondered if getting back in touch with my childhood friends has in any way brought back the closeness that we once shared? I think not. If not anything else, Facebook has actually distanced me from them. It shouldn’t take much to realize that it has made every single emotion incredibly transactional in nature. I ‘like’ my friend’s updates, their photos, and wish them birthdays when Facebook reminds me. Back then I remembered it just like that. Nobody needed to remind me that it was my friend’s birthday.

If I were to start writing about how Facebook has actually denigrated every emotion, every feeling and every occasion in our life, it would make for a separate blog post.

 There was a time, when I was in school, I had the largest bunch of friends. They were all my best friends. Every single one of them. As I grew older, my circle shrunk and I had fewer good ones and hardly any best friends. At my workplace again the number dwindled and the number of good acquaintances was higher. But I never stopped getting attached. I felt for them and wanted to be there for them.

Long ago, I was the sort who even with the knowledge that certain friendships were dying, would try and cling to its last traces. I would go above and beyond to see if it  can be saved, knowing fully well, how futile the whole endeavour is actually when the other person in the equation has given up and started walking in the other direction. I cling more, I feel more desperate and resort to radical measures. That is my Achilles heel by husband told me one day. I expect too much and I cling too much. I had to learn to let go. I decided to start learning how to let go. It was painful. There was a lot of baggage, you know. But eventually I learnt to let go and here I am, able to write about it. It is only after I learnt my lessons the hard way, I have realized I really didn’t need them now. During that frame of my life, it suited both of us ( my friend and me) but not anymore. I could say no. I could say I am okay without you. I wrote back to my friend who had sent me the mail chain and thanked profusely for taking me back to the good times in my life but I also found the courage to say that I have moved on. That I don’t need to delve on the past any longer. This cognizance came in tiny bursts like sunshine peeking in the through the sheer curtains that dance in the wind. The debate just died a natural death in my head towards the end of the day.

In the history of all my friendships, I take pride in the fact that it wasn’t me who let go first. I have learnt now that, as I grow older, I don’t need many friends but just a chosen few. I can count good friends on the fingers of my right hand or the left.  These are the people I turn to and believe that they would choose me over others when they need support.  They know me and love me unconditionally. I love them back.

Friendship today, to me, is even more precious than any other age or time and I am glad that I am able to make a distinction between those friendships that have a expiry tag attached to it right from the start from those that are here to stay.