One of my oldest friends lives in Los Angeles and we never see each other.
Here we are on the same soccer team in elementary school.
I’m number 10. He’s just to my left.
My friend and I grew up together in Memphis, TN. We played on the same sports teams, went to the same schools. In college we were roommates and performed in the same improv group. As adults we got into the same line of work, and would bring each other in for jobs. We were good friends. Old friends. At some point, we started to talk less. My friend changed his name, and grew more spiritual. I went more practical and settled down.
Yesterday, I spoke to him for the first time in almost two years.
Why is that? Distance plays a part. Since he arrived in Los Angeles, he’s been on the west side, and I live east of the east side. Distance is not an insurmountable obstacle though. The way I see it, our lifestyles have been mutually incompatible.
As an example, when he arrived in Los Angeles two years ago, he had been invited to participate in a reality TV show. After his time on the show was over, he decided to stay. At that time, he was still trying to get settled and some days he would call me to say that he was in his car, and that he had no place to stay that night. I knew he wanted help, and I wanted to help. I was also newly moved in to my home in Duarte with the woman I love.
I wanted to honor both relationships. So, I offered my friend a place to crash, as long as he could give me a couple days notice. Perhaps he couldn’t see that far ahead, or maybe he just didn’t like that I put a condition on my help. Either way, he never took advantage of the offer.
We met up once, in Pasadena. He was with a friend of his. And they were both, in my eyes, living on the edge of something.
The edge is a cool place to be. I didn’t wasn’t to be there at the time. I’d been there for a year and a half before moving to Los Angeles, and wasn’t into being there again.
So, we stopped talking. Our lives took their individual courses.
Earlier this year, Adam, a mutual friend of ours passed away. He was a close friend to both of us at different times.
I was able to return to Memphis and attend the funeral. He wasn’t.
Yesterday, we talked about Adam for the first time. We both had our experiences with him, and of him. Our perspectives didn’t always overlap. In some situations they even conflicted. We constantly corrected each other’s language. Not grammatically, but tonally. This is something we’ve done for as long as I can remember. “This is what you said.” “That’s not what I meant.”
It’s healthy, and frustrating. And if those scales don’t stay balanced, an excellent reason to stop communicating with someone.
So there’s a lot more to say, about what kept us apart, but I’m playing it safe on that front because I don’t feel like my thoughts on the issue are particularly interesting or helpful. I do want to say that friends are important. And old friends are especially important. And in a city like this, they can save you. He’s changed. I’ve changed. And yet we’ve both remained the same. It’s up to us to decide what we want to focus on moving forward. That which distinguishes us, or whatever common ground we have that brings us together.
My friend used a phrase that I’m sure is common in his circles, but I hadn’t heard before.
Melt the ego.
Old relationships do that. They force you to confront not just who you think you are now, but who you’ve been, and the real choices you’ve made in the past. I’m thinking of all the friendships I’ve let deteriorate, and how that makes me feel. To know that I haven’t honored the attention and energy that some people have invested in a relationship with me. I’ve often used the excuse that I’m much better with relationships that are a part of my day to day life, and that’s true. But that’s no excuse for not honoring a distant friend’s contributions to our relationship. Or a nearby one.