Tuesday, December 12, 2017
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The long walk

We used to take the long way home, my best friends and I. Our high school was within walking distance from our houses, but we came up with all sorts of reasons to prolong the walk, gabbing endlessly and laughing about everything. When the allowance was good, we’d stop at our favorite bakeshop and spend an eternity on soda and aimless conversation. Some days, someone’s suitor would tag along bringing a guitar, and we’d sing the same Parokya ni Edgar songs over and over until sunset.

We have known one another since first grade, and we took those walks together every single day throughout high school. Today, some 11 years later, we keep in touch mostly through mere Facebook likes.

Connect with friends, Facebook says. In a way, it’s what we still do. When one of us posts a selfie, we acknowledge with a quick like. When it’s a cute baby pic or a nice travel shot, we press heart. On someone’s birthday, we leave brief greetings and I-miss-yous on her profile.

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These are not the long, lively walks we used to take; these are the virtual counterparts of nodding at someone when you pass them on the street.

Still, it’s a connection, and one I cherish. So much has been said of technology diminishing the meaning of our real-life relationships, but I don’t blame social media for the distance that inevitably creeps in on the friendships of our youth. It happens, and I consider us lucky to even be able to see what the others look like now, even just in selfies.

It’s a less organic connection, however, and that’s the part I have to accept. I suppose it’s normal for people my age to reevaluate the relationships they have in their lives, including the ones they’ve never had to reevaluate before, the ones that have always been solid and steady until recently. I suppose this review is part of growing up, of being mature. But wow, is it a tough pill to swallow.

The first time I’ve had to think about it was when I encountered the phrase “friendship breakup.” It sounds like one of the many silly things that millennials have inspired (like calling the color salmon “millennial pink”), but apparently, some people really do end their friendships officially when they have a legitimate reason to. And one of the most common reasons is, unsurprisingly, drifting apart.

When I read about this, I panicked. I have had my best friends practically my whole life, and the thought of losing that friendship—of the possibility that we may already have lost it—was scary. Sure, some of us were teary-eyed during our high school graduation because everyone was saying goodbye, but I didn’t grasp it then. I knew we were going to different colleges and different jobs, but we’d still catch up on sem breaks and summers, right?

We did for a while, maybe for the first three years or so. Eventually, though, distance made itself felt—address-wise, schedule-wise, priority-wise. Perhaps our interest didn’t wane, but our energy did. The summer reunions stopped, the text messages thinned, everything got in the way.

Now, I am faced with the realization that our friendship is no longer the same. All those years of walking home together may have felt as if our bond would never change, as if it had already been so instinctively and permanently engraved in our lives like a gene only the four of us shared. But it has changed, and as inconceivable as that may have seemed to me before, I now have to accept it.

While I don’t think this calls for a friendship breakup, it does already bring a sense of nostalgia. I still hope for the day that all four of us would once again share an aimless conversation, but right now, the only thing I am certain of are the memories. I am lucky that these memories are wonderful.

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Even if somewhere along our separate ways, we left behind some of our affinity without intending to, I’ll still keep the lyrics and the laughter and the way my amazing friends helped me survive some of the most anguished years of my life. Girls, I keep a snapshot of our high school selves; you are tucked neatly in a nice little corner of Looking Back With Gratitude. To you, I raise my plastic cup of soda.

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hyacinthjt@gmail.com

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