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3/19/2017 8:52:00 AM
The lingering bonds of our most important friendships

Erick Rommel

I didn't have many friends in high school, but I did have a core group of those I considered close. At a time I didn't trust many people, they were the ones who taught me how to have faith in others, not by word, but by action.

Best friendships like those are the ones we most often take for granted. We treat them that way not because we don't care enough, but because we care so much we can't imagine a time when that friendship will be any less or -- even more unimaginable -- no longer exist.

Unfortunately, even the closest of friendships can fade over time. These separations often occur for no reason. The break is not one of blame where each person walks away saying, "It's not you; it's me." Instead, the reality is, "It's not you or me; it just is."

For me, the cause of the separation from my high school friends was exactly that. In a time before social media, distance took its toll.

Two of my strongest memories of that friendship are also two of its final memories, although I didn't know that at the time.

The first is from the day before I moved to college for the first time. My friends were two years younger and would soon return to high school. I don't remember why, but we went to a local playground.

We sat for hours and just talked. I don't remember the topics, just the feeling that moment left behind. I walked away feeling I would soon see those friends again and that we'd pick up exactly where we left off.

I still feel that way today even though, looking back, it's clear that moment was a goodbye.

My optimism is based on the second memory I hold close to my heart. It was less than a year later. I had come back from college to visit my friends. I wish I could say it felt the same, but it was different.

They had grown and now had shared experiences that no longer included me. I could no longer laugh at the in-jokes because I was no longer on the inside. The separation had begun.

Despite that, it was a fond reunion. Before long, we discovered the language created by common activities we did share and it was as if no time had passed at all.

I left that day with a feeling I couldn't explain at the time, but I can now. It was recognition of a final, perfect moment. It marked the end of what was, but validated all that had been.

Some people today say that you will never have similar memories. They say today's constant connection through social media makes memories like mine obsolete. I'd like that to be true, but I don't think maintaining true friendships is that simple.

Permanent distance is sometimes unavoidable. If that separation weakens the bonds you felt would remain strong forever, don't look back with regret. Memories of distant friendships are not cause for sadness, they're just sadly inevitable.

In that sorrow, you'll always find a feeling of hope and renewal.

That's why I don't fear the unknown. The bonds that connect those who are closest to us now will always be able to see us through our darkest times, even if that closeness turns remote.

That's because true bonds of friendship don't break. They are the foundation of the common language that's created when separation doesn't have a cause, just an effect.

When you share a language like that with others, you always know who your friends truly are.

Erick Rommel works for a nonprofit youth organization. He can be reached at Erick.Rommel@gmail.com.

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