After a troubling day, I was hit with emotions that I needed to express to someone. I blackened up a blank Word document and when I transferred it to my email I stopped at the ‘To’ box.
In a life before this present one, I had a go-to person for this kind of thing. But as I’ve jumped continents our relationship has changed. I’ve reached out with letters and email to maintain this connection but only received silence. We no longer have the type of friendship for send confusing thoughts knowing the other would understand. There is nothing anymore but Facebook friendship and a Twitter follow.
The other day I woke up to an email from a woman whose name I needed a minute to search for. She was the receptionist at my eye doctor. She’s read my newspaper columns and blogs and wanted to reach out. Her sincerity and interest was the kind of gesture that makes you forget terrible people exist.
Friendship casualties and shifts are part of Peace Corps. Just in six months, my circle of friends tightened up after Niger, leaving out acquaintances that are hard to keep up without an occasional run in. All volunteers express some hurt from the friendships that weaken over the ocean, so I expected there to be some loss.
What I couldn’t predict is which relationships would fade. People I once considered permanent in my life have not only not reached out to me but also haven’t returned correspondence. No happy birthday messages, a quick hello or even a Facebook like. We all live digital lives so that isn’t an excuse.
It hurts. I swear that if they can’t be part of my African life they will not be part of my returned life. Maybe they think of me, maybe they have moved on. The pain of these lost friendships haunts me at times and I wondered what I did wrong.
Yet, what I forget is the friendships that have strengthened over these years. My party planning committee, who made it their mission to throw me not just one but two parties. The friend I made in my short time in Idaho. My with three very young children. A close friend’s sister with whom I attended music festivals. The person I’ve never met who has become one of my closest confidants through a year of only emails and letters. The other friends, the ones who were always a big part of my life, sending letters, messages, packages and whatever they can to still show their support. The incredible people that I am so lucky to serve with in Lesotho and the ones I served with in Niger. And the people who read this blog – former coworkers, friends from college and other various stages of my life, RPCVs, family and friends of PCVs, PCVS – who read this blog with respect and understanding of my emotion. These people are my net. They keep me going. I need them more than they’ll ever understand.
I do understand that it is hard to keep up with the one in Africa and people get busy. For many of my friends, I am not bothered by it but there are a few who I honestly expected more of. I need to let them go, though, and remember those who actively participate in this life.
Whether it is my best friend who happily puts up with Africa’s terrible phone connection or the friend who replies to every letter or the one who sends the occasional email update or the person who reads my blog religiously or the person I met three times who finds it necessary to email me or my family who gives me unending support no matter what others say. Those people who mean the most, the ones I have to focus on rather than those who are now gone. That is life. Friendships change, they come and go, especially in your 20s but even more so when you are going through major life changes. To be the best person I can, I need to put those here now at the center of my thoughts and heart.
To those of you who have written letters, sent packages, called, emailed, Facebooked, read this blog, you are the rea