Good friends are just so valuable, aren’t they?!
A much-loved friend of ours, who we haven’t seen in way-too-long, came to stay the night last Friday… and didn’t leave until Monday morning!
Don’t you just love how that can happen?
The original plan was for a catch-up and to show him our new place, but it ended up being a whole weekend of laughs, reminiscing and creating wonderful new memories to treasure.
This got me wondering – what is it about ‘old’ friends that makes them so special? New friendships are great, but there’s a precious extra dimension to being with someone that you’ve known for years…
I think that, particularly as we get older, it’s nice to have friends that we’ve known for years, who are still in our lives. It gives us a sense of connection, both to each other and to the past – our past – a shared history. And if that history involves lots of silly antics and ‘foolish’ things that we might not do now, but can laugh at the memories, all the better.
Human beings are a social species. We are wired for connection. Our brains naturally seek patterns, making comparisons and looking for similarities. Having a shared interest can bring us together and help us to create lasting bonds.
I think too, that the world is ever changing, and as the pace of that change seems to be speeding up, we can easily feel that we are being left behind. It can be comforting to have friends of the same vintage who share a similar framework of memories, for example the music of the 80’s, fashion trends and major news stories.
TV programmes and things that we learnt at school can also be common frames of reference. I was travelling home on the train yesterday and heard a conversation behind me between a woman and the man selling refreshments from the trolley. She told him that he had arrived at just the right time as she was half-way through her journey and really fancied a cup of tea. He replied that it was ‘Kismet’ that he had come along to serve her at that moment, but she was unfamiliar with this word or its historical reference.
Having ‘old’ friends is like being part of a ‘school gang’ – you can use your own ‘in’ vocabulary, talking in a kind of short-hand, because you know the other(s) will get what you’re talking about. This also separates you from those who are ‘outside’ the gang – those who are ‘other’ – helping to give you that important sense of belonging.
Having a friend who’s known you since your younger days, and sharing a history of fun times, silliness and various life events, gives us that ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’. If some of these stories are mildly embarrassing, even better!
But it’s not just about the good times. Friendships are tested and strengthened by going through challenging times together. Here too, it is sometimes good to know that we don’t have to explain ourselves. The other person immediately knows and understands. With new friends we might have to tell the story again, or choose to keep it to ourselves, but an ‘old’ friend gets it because they were there with us and felt our pain right alongside us.
We are becoming much more aware of the importance of friendships for our health and wellbeing. I recently read an article which said that:
“Loneliness is as big a mortality risk as diabetes. Research links social isolation to dementia, heart disease, stroke, depression and a 29% greater risk of dying. … recent research shows the quality of friendships also helps keep us alive…”www.theguardian.com
So, treasure your ‘old’ friends. If you haven’t seen them in a while, call them up and reconnect. The internet is a great tool for this as we now have Facebook, Messenger, Skype, Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp and all the other wonderful ways that we can stay in touch.
Share the memories and the laughs – so simple to do and so good for our souls!