Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Orchids and Hydrangeas

Two of my closest friends go back to high school and college. Over the years, there were pauses in our communication that ran months and years. Yet every time we reconnected it was like picking up where we left off without missing a beat. No matter what happened in our lives during the hiatus, nothing changed our friendship. We each live in a different country and have not met in decades. The unconditional and unchanging friendship of these two wonderful people I have been so fortunate to know is unlike the rest of the "friendships" in my life. 

There were ebbs and tides, people were in frequent touch at times and then not at all, I made efforts to revive near-dead relationships that seem to run out of air the moment I stopped trying. Life frequently gets in the way - marriage, divorce, kids, death, employment and illness take their toll. Many have dropped off completely and I have to struggle to remember names that were once important to me. I have wondered if people stop being able to forge friendships of a lifetime after college and if my experience is not so unique after all. Maybe there is something to be said for the cauldron that forms the dorm experience - living in tight quarters, over-sharing, new freedom, youth, naivete, dreams yet unbroken that allows abiding friendships to form. High school was similar in most ways minus the 24/7 collocation. 

Not since those times does one have the luxury of waiting several months to initiate conversation with a person that seemed interesting. Six months later, you are still in the same classes and have the same routine - it is not too late. This slow and gentle process of getting to know another person seems to impact the long term outcomes. There is no rush to do things, deliver on expectations or otherwise step out of your comfort zone. The friendship grows organically, feeding off of what is naturally available in the environment. If you then part ways and still want to stay in touch, chances are that the relationship will continue to thrive even as people and conditions evolve. There seems to be a natural adaptation in the friendship of youth to allow this. Those of independent and adult life  have never had any of these resilient qualities in my experience.

It is the difference between nurturing a hydrangea (which blooms each summer in my yard with no effort on my part) and trying to keep an orchid alive in its pot (I managed to keep one around for close to two years and that was as much work as it was a miracle). The more I have run into the fancy orchids in my later years, the more I value my never failing to bloom hydrangea of early youth.

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