Friday, February 24, 2017

In absence

There are a good number of people that I would consider to be friends today, who, if you asked me where I'd met them, I'd say "college," when—in reality—we were only vaguely aware of each others' existence during college. College was certainly where we were connected, but the real friendship developed later through letters, blogs, or as is more often the case these days, Facebook. Essentially, our friendship developed in absence, and when I think back on the period in which we were physically present with each other, it's almost bizarre to recall that we really barely knew each other then.

There is another group, though, that I don't think of as often. It's the group made up of a few friends that I felt like I was quite close with while we were physically present together, but that I then completely lost track of after we parted ways.

This very month in 2009, I dropped out of college, left my home and country for the first time and did a semester of Bible school in Italy. It was also my first time living with a group of people all around my own age, and, honestly, the first time in my life I felt like I really had friends. I'm still friends with, or at least acquainted with many of the 20 or so other students and staff that were there, and there's also one or two that would probably fall into the above category of people that I'm closer with now than I actually was then.

There was another student, though, that I spent more time with than anyone else. We went running together, swam in frigid bodies of water in multiple countries together, and went on numerous absurd and poorly planned weekend trips in which "if we can't find a cheap enough hotel there, we'll just walk around all night" was a perfectly acceptable outcome. We talked about each others' faith, politics and hopes for the future, and to the extent that an extreme introvert like myself who didn't really "do" friends could, I felt like we were friends.

Then the semester ended, and I've neither seen or heard from him since.

While that sounds kind of sad, I really don't think there is anything wrong with it. Some people are just present with the people they are present with and don't have much to say in absence. In fact, I sometimes think of them as relationships of presence, compared with most of the relationships in my life, which are really relationships of absence.

How to tell which will become which, though? That's the real mystery to me. Who am I vaguely acquainted with now that I'm destined to keep in touch with and grow closer to in the future? And, perhaps more hauntingly, who—if anyone—do I feel close to now, but will be gone forever when we part ways?

Maybe it's that element of mystery in relationships that makes them real and alive. But it may unfortunately also be the reason I tend to avoid them so often.

But I digress.