The Ties That Bind

In Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on February 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

Social networking has afforded me the opportunity to get back in touch with people who, quite frankly, I probably never would have found on my own.  My friends list on Facebook is nothing short of a virtual version of “This is Your Life.” The list ranges from people who have actually known me since birth to people who I’ve never seen face-to-face (or even spoken to on the phone for that matter), and everything in between (people from elementary school, junior high, high school, camp, jobs, etc.).

Like rafts adrift on an ocean, old friends were each pulled in different directions as the years passed, but somehow, we all ended up on the same island many years later.  But that doesn’t mean that everything is the same as it once was.  For some, the lost years never seemed to have happened, and the relationship picked up where it left off in an almost seamless way.  For others, landing on the same island did nothing to bridge the gap of the years gone by, as friends of the past became nothing more than familiar strangers.

It really is a matter of circumstance, as each of us has changed in our own way.  Although we may wax nostalgic about the good times that we shared in the past, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we always have enough in common as time goes by to rekindle old friendships.  By the same token, the common bond that we once shared can also become a foundation on which to build new friendships with people who  (at one time) were nothing more than casual acquaintances.  Common interests, beliefs and mindset are still the ties that bind people together.

In the past week, I have had two meaningful conversations with people from my past.  One was a former co-worker (and friend), and the other was a friend that I’ve known since I was a kid.  Although I had spoken to each of them on a rare occasion, I hadn’t spoken at length to either one of them in a very long time.  While I knew what they were doing at one time, I only recently learned about what is going on in each of their lives now.

My former co-worker and I always had a strong bond.  We were friends as much as co-workers, even though our backgrounds and lifestyles were very different.  And though we stayed in touch for a while after we stopped working together, we lost touch as I got married, had kids and moved back to the suburbs.  He stayed single, has always lived in the city, and his socializing for both business and pleasure has never diminished.  Despite our lifestyle differences, our phone conversation confirmed that we are of one mindset.  I am looking forward to seeing the projects that he is working on succeed, and he feels the same way about the things that I am working on.  It wouldn’t shock me at all if we worked together again in the future.

In my conversation with my childhood friend, I found out that the ties that bind us go well beyond the experiences that we shared in our carefree youth (in both good and bad ways).

Both of us lost our fathers way before their time.  Both were men of strength when they were alive, and unfortunately, both of our fathers left this world when their strength was tragically taken away from them.  I had a short time to say my goodbyes, my friend had longer.  Each of us felt terrible for what the other one had gone through in losing our dads (the men largely responsible for who we both are today).  Neither of us will ever feel as complete as we once were when our fathers were alive.  And though my friend didn’t say as much, I can tell that he wants to be to his kids what his father was to him.  The words didn’t need to be spoken.  It is easy to see it in others because I feel the same way about my kids.

Throughout our lengthy (long overdue) conversation, we reminisced about the old days, touching on as many of the good times as we could, although we certainly couldn’t fit them all into one conversation.  One memory stood out above all others because it apparently had more of an impact than either of us realized at the time (or for the years that followed).  Only recently was the magnitude of our last day of high school revealed to my friend by a former faculty member who shared a perspective that neither of us could have possibly imagined.  Suffice it to say that one of the greatest days of my life was elevated to legendary status upon hearing about my friend’s enlightening conversation.

It is very hard to look beyond the moment when we are young, especially when we seemingly have our whole lives in front of us.  Most of us thought that our childhood friends would be lifelong friends because we didn’t have the foresight to realize that things and people change.  However, our adult lives are guided as much by circumstance as they are by our intentions.  As a result, some friendships stand the test of time while others do not.  Billy Joel said it perfectly many years ago…“so many faces in and out of my life…some will last, some will just be now and then.” Without a crystal ball, it’s difficult to tell which faces will last, which faces will be now and then, and which faces will be nothing more than a memory.

I had no way of knowing that my friend and I would lose touch for so many years.  I had no way of knowing that we would be of the same mindset as fathers as we were growing up together.  Maybe it is because we both tragically lost our fathers.  Maybe it is because of the influence that they provided when they were still with us.  Or maybe it is a combination of both.  I also had no way of knowing that we would be able to reminisce about the “good old days” in one breath, while admiring each other’s work in the next.

What I do know is that the ties that bind us as adults have the potential to be stronger than the ties that bind us when we are young.  Being nostalgic by nature, I do have regrets about the lost years with certain people.  But I also have a great appreciation for the opportunity to reconnect and make up for lost time.

I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like today without the modern technology that has made melding our past with our present so effortless.

  1. Adam…this made me cry. You are so insightful, so deep, so touching. {{{hugs}}}

  2. Adam, this is by far my favorite blog yet!! I smiled the entire way through because I can SO relate to everything you said. I love your term “familiar strangers”. How true that is. People you were so excited to see an invite from and they are nothing more than a number in your friend accumulation list. Still, you left out one category…friends you met via a friend on Facebook. I’m glad I “met” ya…and can’t wait to meet ya! 🙂

    I bet I’m not the only one thrown back to that one defining moment from HS when they read about yours. Mine has left me grinning big-time with some big-hair laughs!! Thanks.

  3. It’s not the quantity, its the quality! And being 3000 miles away from where I grew up, FB, is like the local newspaper we all had…. I can keep up on important information and some not so important information… But the ties, have been and will always be, our values that we share. And through our journey on earth, our values will change and that is why friendships will change. And this isn’t new.

    But it’s a blessing… Because even that familiar stranger, when a crisis arises, could be an inspirational source. As my son, lies heavily sedated on a ventilator, due to this RSV virus, I find many of these strangers to be of great value!

    And off the record Adam, as a familiar stranger, some of my fondest childhood memories, was water skiing with your dad!

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