Friday, May 11, 2007

Staying and Leaving

I have noticed as the years pass by and I have remained in my hometown, that eventually, everyone leaves. We've become such a mobile society that for people to grow up and actually stay in the city of their birth is unusual. Especially here - I am constantly saying (in an effort to appear witty and well-informed) that in any public gathering in Nashville, you will be unlikely to find more than 5 natives. "Try it!" I suggest. Fortunately they are more than willing to take my word because who's gonna canvass an entire cocktail party or art show to find out where everyone is from?!

As a Perpetual Homebody, I am therefore required to suffer the constant disappointment of Those Who Leave. On the average of 2-4 a year, good friends will move on to different pastures. Paul, Teresa, Mike, Sarah, Renu, Shellee, Kara, Chandelle, Robyn, Brian, Heather, DJ, Frances, Matt, Joe, Ken. Tons more I've now forgotten. All of these people I considered to be close friends, and they left. A FEW have come back, but it's rarely as it was before.

It's been interesting to see how the Stayers and the Leavers deal with the break. Some are able to sustain a lasting friendship long-distance because both parties are determined to stay in contact, to write, to call, to work on projects together. But if even one of the parties has decided to move on, or repair the gap in their wall of friends, then all the efforts of the other person are to no avail. The neglect is never really meant in malice or disinterest, but it's so very, very hard to sustain a friendship long distance!

I used to try to stay in touch; back in the beginning, I would cling to addresses and phone numbers and send Christmas cards & letters. But as the years went by and people continued to leave, I grew resigned. Initially I might be hurt at their neglect or lack of response. But I eventually grew tired of trying to maintain one-sided relationships, and now I let go almost before they leave town!

There are exceptions. But I finally invented my own little zen saying: "If they're gonna leave, then they're gonna leave." Mind-blowing insight, no? I do my best to be the best possible friend up til the moment they leave - I do good-bye tokens, cards, parties, help pack, or at the least get their new address. And then they go, and depending on whether or not they contact me first, I usually let it drop. Barring the yearly Christmas Card.

I realized recently that this has been the story of my life. In kindergarten I had Missy as a best friend. We were inseperable, and at the end of the school year her family moved away. First grade was Betsy, and at the end of the school year her family moved away too. After that I had no best friends, and I don't even to this day. I've tried to "invent" them upon occasion, but inevitably I've realized that I was far more invested in the friendship than they were, or would ever be, and that you simply cannot make someone be best friends.

At this point one might think that I might look to my Mom and sisters as friends, but unfortunately that hasn't materialized. We talk comfortably together and we enjoy visiting each other... but it doesn't go much beyond that. They all left town too. Amy came back, but she's a mom and therefore in the class of The Busiest People on Earth. Mom came back, and has always had her own full life, so beyond phone calls, occasional lunches, computer tutorials from me, etc., we don't harass each other :) It's actually a very healthy arrangement!

I'm a Stayer. What are you?

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

Well, obviously I'm a Leaver, as I am writing this from St. Louis. However, irony of ironies, I'm a Leaver who moved to a town of Stayers. Seriously, very few people from St. Louis leave, and the ones who do generally come back. As a result, everywhere you go, people ask you where you went to high shool because a) they assume you are from here, and b) it's very likely that they know someone who went to your high school and can connect the dots pretty quickly to figure out how you're connected. When I say I'm not from here, many people just sort of turn away like that's the most bizarre thing they've ever heard. I have a hell of a time finding new friends. People aren't unfriendly, they just have their same old friends from high school and don't really need to make friends with us "foreigners."