Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spin Cycle: Make New Friends, But Keep the Old...

I think most people would agree that I don’t have any problem making new friends.

I meet someone, I like them, they seem to like me, bonding takes place, *poof*! New friend. Unfortunately I don’t do a good job keeping in touch with people when they aren’t in my every day circle any more.

If I move or change jobs, I’m sad to leave people behind. They’ll e-mail me (because most people are not jerks like I seem to be), I can’t e-mail them back right away because I’m busy, or I don’t because I’m distracted, and then suddenly it’s 2 months later and they’ve e-mailed me 3 more times and I still haven’t responded to the first one because, you know, it’s been too long, AWKWARD! So I hide in shame until they stop trying to contact me. I’m not happy about that, but in most cases that is just what happens. I still genuinely like the person and miss them a lot, but it feels like it’s too late or too random to reach out. Thanks to blogging and Facebook I’m back in touch with a ton of people that I had missed, and am doing better at not losing touch with people in the first place, and I’m really happy about that.

But there’s a person out there somewhere that I strongly regret losing contact with, and Google and Facebook have not yet provided me any clues to how her life is going.

When I was in middle school, my mom (who had been a teacher before my parents got me) re-certified to become a Home Economics teacher. Right at the end of the summer before I was to go into 8th grade (so close to school starting that the practices for Cross Country had started. I’m not a quitter, but I hadn’t known I wasn’t a long-distance runner either, so I was about to be saved from myself) she announced that she had found a position and wanted to try it. Rather than uproot completely, and take my dad out of his job when he didn’t have one to go to, and (I think) as a safety measure in case she didn’t like teaching, my mom and I got an apartment two hours away from home in Southwest Ohio. She was going to teach at the middle school I would now be attending. You might think I would have minded this upheaval from the school system I had attended since first grade, but since my best friend from 4th through the first half of 7th grade had decided that we were no longer best friends, most likely due to the fact that I had snagged myself a boyfriend and she did not have one (I could be wrong of course, but the timing was mighty suspicious), I was pretty happy to not have to face 8th grade without her as a friend. Things had been cold and unpleasant on that Cross Country team, let me tell you.

So on the first day of 8th grade my mom and I went to school together, and I immediately felt welcome. She didn’t so much, but more on that later. Everybody I met thought it was cool that I was from the “big city” (*snort*), I didn’t run into anyone who wasn’t completely nice, and I had a math class that day that completely changed my life. Heh, that's probably the only time I've ever gotten something good out of that subject.

In that class was another new girl, who had just moved up from Texas with her younger sister, mom, and step-dad. She had curly dark auburn hair (the kind I’ve always wanted), wore glasses and was named Rachael. With nothing more to bring us together that first day other than our mutual newness and our almost identical names, within 24 hours we were solidly bonded as a unit, which was known from then on as the Rach(a)els. You want to know how fond of her I was? She was the only person who I have ever let get away with calling me “Rachie”. That’s a serious privilege. But she saved both my self-esteem and my optimistic outlook on life so she deserved that and a lot more.

With my former best friend suddenly decided I was no longer worth spending time with, I thought what any middle-school girl would have thought: that there was something wrong with me. That it was ABOUT me. It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized what had to have really been behind it (the boy). So all the fun I had with Rachael and the group of girls that formed around our unit (and the new boyfriend I picked up pretty quickly), with people wanting to be with me, jostling to sit on the side that wasn’t next to Rachael, and to have someone to do anything and everything with, who was a much better friend and person than my former best friend had ever been? Totally restored my confidence.

And then when my mom, who was disenchanted almost immediately with her new job (junior high kids having lost whatever politeness they were still displaying in the 70s), but didn’t want to quit, started to mentally withdraw into her misery and would forget to come home from school (I could either take the bus or walk), or cook dinner, or ask where I was or where I was going to go, Rachael and her family pretty much welcomed me into their family. I ate dinner at their house more than my own. I slept over almost every weekend. They included me on family trips to Kings Island. They were wonderful people who were raising two wonderful daughters (is it any wonder that I’ve always wanted to have two daughters, one with curly hair? It started all the way back then), and seemed to genuinely enjoy having one more, and it’s thanks to them, and especially Rachael that I came through 8th grade not only unscathed, but more confident and happy than I had ever been before.

But do you know how long this friendship, one of the most significant friendships I have had, lasted? 4 months plus one week. By the end of December my mom had given notice and shortly after the start of the new year I was back in central Ohio. And the fact that I've never been good at the keeping in touch thing? Bit me hard. Even though I got to visit her in Texas (she had also moved back to where she was from, but she got to wait until the end of the year) for one wonderful week the next summer, I was distracted by life and let her go by the wayside. I was able to go back to my old school in the middle of 8th grade and have a great second half of the year thanks to the things I’d learned about myself while I was away, and head to high school where I got myself a pack of wonderful new friends. Including my best friend of 15 years (met her on the first day of 9th grade in science class), who I love so much I named my daughter after her. And heck, I’d probably let her call me "Rachie" too if she was that kind of girl who called people "Rachie". But the point is, I was self involved and I lost touch. And Rachael is the one person I have regretted losing touch with more than any other.

So what’s the main message of this very lengthy spin?

Simple, don’t be like me. It's wonderful to make new friends, but don’t lose track of them.

Do be like me in one way though. This walk down memory lane was brought to you by Sprite’s Keeper and the Spin Cycle. Head on over there and take a look at the other entries on friendship. Maybe you’ll make some new friends, or at least add to your Google Reader.


Sprite's Keeper said...

I completely get it. The "call you back" that never happens because it takes you so long to do it, you feel embarrassed. I've done that so many times.
By chance, I promised Sprite I would take her to the "playground" this evening. John's working late and it's just her and me tonight. Maybe we'll see you there? :-)
You're linked!

Mama Badger said...

Rare is the person who keeps in touch all that well. I think the sign of a good friendship is one where you can pick up a phone, or shoot off an e-mail after two or three months, and instantly catch up.

Don't lose hope for finding Rachel! She's out there somewhere.