I was skyping with a friend last week and sharing how I have had to get used to friends coming and going. Maybe it’s part of living in a tourist town where most most people come from somewhere else and usually use the phrase “going home” in reference to place other than here. Often upon meeting someone new the first question is 1) where are you from? followed by 2) how long have you been here? and sometime before the conversation is over you ask the infamous 3) and how long are you here for?
I spent my first few years living abroad trying to re-create my closest group of friends from the states. I wanted to have a Jen, Ashley and Kirsten here. I wanted a running friend like Chelsea and a roommate like Maggie here in Guatemala. I wanted to have a mentor like June here. And I thought I could instantly be as close to my husband’s sisters as I am to mine. But I learned that you can’t re-create friends identical to ones you left. You can only make new ones and be committed to maintain the old ones.
I became immediately disappointed upon meeting someone when they casually announced, oh I’m here for 6 months or we’ll be here for a year.
That’s it? I thought. I am looking for lifetime friends and you can only give me 6 months.
It’s easy to build walls, complain and detach when you know someone is only going to be around for 6 months. I realized pretty quickly into our marriage that it was not fair to expect Gerber to be my only friend. He’s a wonderful husband and before we started dating we were friends first and I’d like to believe we’ll remain friends, but he cannot replace girlfriends. I’ve written about the importance of female friends in my life before and it’s a theme I come back to often, because I think learning how to make, keep and grow within friendships is essential.
There’s been lots of great posts about friendships popping up around the internet, too. My two favorites were Lesly Miller’s about the value of internet friendship and Shauna Niequist’s post about moving to be closer to friends. Both are worth a read and make for a great discussion. And now I am adding my thoughts about the importance of friendships for certain seasons.
I am learning that there are perhaps a few lifetime friends- maybe your high school best friend or your college girl friends- friends that you remain committed to no. matter. what. And those friends are worth keeping, forever. Some people are lucky enough to live next to their lifetime friends, but I’m guessing most of us stay in touch via emails and random text messages and plane flights and planned weekend getaways.
However, I also am learning to see the value in friendships for seasons. There may be seasons where you’re close to your co-workers, or the women in your bible study or your after-work running group. Some of these friendships may become lifetime friends, but some may simply be friends for a season. And I think that’s ok. I think we need friends who are in our life, like next door or around the corner. Friends who can be physically present to bring a meal over, or let you borrow maternity clothes or stop by the hospital to hold your newest little one. These are things that even your lifetime friends cannot do when separated by state lines and country codes.
This season I have been ever thankful for friends here. New friends, some who are leaving, and some who are staying. But friends who understand the ins and outs of life as a gringa in Guatemala, friends who get cross-cultural marriage, and friends who have had babies here and who can share their stories and advice and tips on where to get breast pumps or bouncers or cloth diapers when Target doesn’t exist. I am grateful for friends to exercise with and carpool with and share this season of life with. Most of us all come from somewhere else and have best friends who live in other places, but I think we recognize the richness to accepting friends for seasons.
Do you have friends in your life who have been friends for certain seasons? How do you remain close to and committed to your lifetime friends?