I saw this meme pop up in the landmine that is my Facebook feed these days, and like many of the memes that flood my page, I nodded and scrolled past it. But about three posts down, I found myself scrolling back up to read it one more time.
I don’t chase after people anymore.
I get it. So many people don’t reciprocate or fall off the radar. People are busy. I am one of those people. I think about the people in my life who I have not done a good job of keeping up with even though I value them. I have a history with these people, and we have had great times in the past, and then I moved or they moved or other circumstances changed, and we don’t see each other regularly.
I’ve definitely been on both sides of this friendilemma. I’ve been the person who disappeared for no apparent reason, and I’ve been the person looking at a contact on my phone thinking, “could you just reach out without prompting once?”
I think it’s easy to feel bad in both of these scenarios.
When you are doing all the initiating, it is easy to wonder if that person is actually a friend. Would they care if you disappeared? Would they even notice?
When you moved away and are in the throws of starting a new life or you are overwhelmed and struggling to keep your head above water, you may not reach out even though you theoretically want to, and that guilt plagues you.
And perhaps this meme’s creator (I don’t know who by the way), figured that this distancing sentiment was the only way to avoid the messiness of friendship.
And it’s true. If you sit and wait and don’t overextend yourself chasing after people in your life, you will not have to wonder if the people near you want to be there.
There are certainly relationships that are so one-sided they are not relationships at all, and if people are making you miserable or being terrible to you, then by all means, walk away.
Or sometimes it’s just best to admit that you are not friends and move on. That’s normal too.
And the truth in the meme is that there is much value in being comfortable in your own company. This is part of being a mature adult who can manage their emotions and their life. And it’s worth striving for.
But despite the truth that this meme of “I don’t chase people” attempts to capture, I think there is a great risk in adopting this idea without careful consideration.
Friendships, like all relationships, have a tendency to be messy. They can break your heart. They can also be life-giving. They can be rocky and expose your insecurities, and they can be the thing that helps you survive moments when life would crush you.
Friendship is all these things, because people are all these things.
People are amazing and wonderful and horrible and petty and encouraging and in bad moods and giving and thoughtless and absolutely any emotion you can imagine.
I am all these things. You are all these things. We are all these things.
We all have good days and bad days and good years and bad years and great times and rough times and sometimes those times drag on, and we are not our best selves.
But friendship is in spite of these times, not because of them.
Friendship is for the good and the bad. It is for the moments when you reach out and the ones when you simply cannot or are so full of yourself that you do not.
I am not saying that some friendships do not need to end. Sometimes they do.
But to have the mindset that we don’t chase after people negates the purpose of us pouring ourselves into each other’s life.
Friendship is for the laughs and the high moments, but it is also for the rough times, the sad times, the boring times, and the times when we need to be chased and loved beyond our current moment.
I think of my friends—some I talk to, some I don’t. All of them have at times filled moments of my life with hope and happiness and even reminders to not be a turd. And I don’t want to hold on to those moments with contempt because of where our friendship currently finds itself.
Maybe it was a friendship for a time. Maybe it’s on pause. Maybe I’m having trouble reaching out. Maybe they are. Maybe it’s just doing the normal up and down thing that loving other people does.
But that doesn’t mean that I will sit content with only my own company if no one seeks me out. That’s dumb. We need each other.
We need friends willing to love us when we go dark. And we need to love others when they are so full of their own life that they can’t see us.
That’s loving people. That’s friendship. That’s the good stuff.
Some friends are worth taking the time to keep things going, others not so much. Maybe time and/or distance are the barometer for the depth of the connection.
the modern real
This was definitely one of the tensions I was thinking about when writing. I found that sometimes there were people I hadn’t talked to in a long time or who were far away that I really wanted to connect with, so I’m not sure if that barometer fits for me. I imagine it’s individual, but it would be really interesting to do a study with friendships over time and see what the factors are that cause people to let go of them. I’m sure time and distance would feature prominently.