Not everybody sticks around forever, and that’s okay.
The crux of 1994’s My So-Called Life is 15-year-old Angela Chase’s mid-high school transition and coming-of-age. She dyes her hair red (“Crimson Glow”), runs with the class-cutting, underage-drinking “dangerous” crowd, and stops speaking to her childhood best friend who resents her change of image. She becomes obsessed with hazy-eyed Jared Leto’s Jordan Catalano. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but in this tumultuous period of change in her life, she finds herself—and true friends who end up being there for her when she needed them to be.
Claire Danes’ portrayal of Angela is fraught with teenage angst and tension, not unlike what we experience at that pivotal moment of our lives. Unlike Angela, however, there are those people who never outgrow their high school friendships, and who can always come back to a particular solid core of people that grow up with them.
There are, of course, people who are like Angela. There are people who realize, perhaps belatedly, that the kind of people they’ve become don’t necessarily know how to be friends with the people they thought they’d grow old with together. Other coming-of-age shows on TV deal with this. There’s Veronica Mars’ radical 180 from popularity to social pariah after her best friend’s murder, cheerleader Lyla Garrity’s turn to organized religion in Friday Night Lights, and Lindsay Weir’s shift in allegiance from the mathletes to the “freaks” and Deadheads in Freaks and Geeks.
It’s not a new story, but it’s something that we ought to maybe pay more attention to.
In one of the episodes of My So-Called Life, Angela says of the friends from her old life: “There’s the people who you’ve known forever who, like, know you in this way that other people can’t, because they’ve seen you change… they’ve let you change.”
And maybe that’s what you can hold on to. “Losing” friendships isn’t necessarily losing. Outgrowing people isn’t a failure. Because whatever happens in your life or theirs, you were, at some point, part of each other’s worlds. The person you are today wouldn’t have been the same without them, and it may seem like you owe it to them to keep in touch or force the kind of open-hearted intimacy you shared but you know isn’t there anymore. Maybe you wear your old friendships like a security blanket, but everyone knows security blankets only feel safe, but usually aren’t. The truth is that you don’t have to hold onto these friendships, despite your “BFF” declarations after midnight on sleepovers.
Good friendships, the ones worth keeping, are those that you know you can rely on. No judgments, no strings attached, no four month-long waits in between meeting up together. Deep friendships are hard to come by, but when you have to dig a trench to keep pushing one into it, the depth of that friendship is artificial. If you feel like you’re the only party that makes an effort to be in that space of closeness, it’s probably a good idea to consider cutting your losses. Friendships that have to be constantly molded into something that vaguely even resembles a friendship aren’t worth cultivating. And that’s okay.
This isn’t an advice column where I, a deeply unqualified person, tells you how to feel about or conduct your base relationships. What I do believe is that we have a limited amount of resources in our lives to invest in relationships, and we have the power and control to actually nurture those that count.