Making Time For Old Friends

I have been fortunate in my life to amass quite the motley crew of old friends. They have shaped and changed me in ways it is hard to capture. I suspect I am not alone. Studies have shown that our friends affect everything from the choices we make to the financial risks we take and from the weight we gain to how long we live.

By sheer numbers alone, from middle school through the time we have children, we are constantly under the influence of our friends. Spending more time with them than we do with our family and perhaps than we even spend by ourselves. 

Yet as we grow older it is often quite natural to grow apart – both physically and emotionally.  We move on from school, move to a different city, change jobs, and change our priorities.

The person we used to talk to every day, we now talk to every other month, if we’re lucky.

In the age of Facebook, we keep tabs on the latest happenings of the approximately 15% of our friends who show up in our newsfeeds.  But reading stories about each other’s lives pales in comparison to the stories we could be creating together.

Over the last month I’ve had several opportunities to meaningfully reconnect with old friends.  A phone call on a long walk with my dog, a basketball game – tickets courtesy of my wife, a spontaneous dinner, a planned gathering over our kids’ spring breaks. Prior to these recent encounters, on average it had been almost a year since my last conversation with each of these five old friends. 

While there was the perfunctory catching up and walking down amnesia lane, the majority of these times with old friends were spent creating something new. 

Seeing an old friend is like riding the proverbial bike. No matter how long it’s been, the rhythm comes back quickly and naturally. The easy banter, the open sharing, the lack of any kind of filter reflects an intimacy forged by years if not decades of friendship.

It is easy to take old friends for granted.  When we finally reconnect we inevitably say that it’s been too long and let’s get together soon. Yet life happens and time drifts once more.

Our oldest friends are in a very literal sense a part of us. Shared experiences etched in our memories and reflected in our character and station in life. When we neglect them, we neglect an essential part of ourselves.

I spent a total of 2% of my time last month during these five encounters with old friends. The impact of these experiences no doubt made me a better husband, father, and worker for the other 98%.

I hope you find a few minutes today to make some new time with an old friend. You’ll both be better off for it.

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