The past couple of weeks I have been thinking of my friends, and how some of us have sustained for over a quarter of a century. We still connect as we did in school; we are secret keepers to one another, agony aunts and also 4 am friends. It helps that we are in different time zones, so our 4 am is not the same. Despite the distance and time differences, we are keyed in to almost everything that happens in our lives – what we are eating, when we take the dog for a poo-walk, what we did at work, and what we have been thinking all day. And then there are some from the same era with whom we have totally lost touch. May be not lost touch in the actual, tangible sense of the word. But we do not connect at the same level that we did all those years ago. We were thick, once upon a time, snuggling on the same bench in class all those years ago, chatting on the office messenger, living our synchronized daily lives; but now, we are two ends of a spectrum, or realizing our spectrum has completely changed.

Friends are really the blessings in our lives that are not thrust on you basis some weird logic of ´you must´. They are people you choose in your lives. You choose them because you connect. Whether similar or different, you understand each other. You provide love and support, and also that dressing down when it is really required. You have found peace in your similarities and balance with your differences. There is mutual love and respect. There are no strings attached. It is unconditional. There is no measuring how much and what one is putting in. We contribute what we can – no expectations, and much gratitude. That is how friendships are sustained.

Many a times, the best of friends break away. Or, they just grow away from each other. I have lost friends. I still miss some of them. Sometimes, we just went off our ways, and our paths never converged. We did not even make an effort to. Those relationships have served their purpose and we just moved on. Sometimes, a new person comes in, and our original place is gone. I have lost quite a few friendships to marriages – of friends of both genders. The new person in our life has different expectations from us, and we just go along with our new life. We find new friends, get busy and do not feel the need to connect. Or we have nothing in common to connect with. Our paradigm shifts.

Adversities are a great way to test friendships, or for that matter, any relationship. There was a time in our life, not so long ago, when my husband went back to college and I took leave from work. We wanted to be together for our daughter, and we were spending our savings. We were close to this senior colleague of mine. He and his family welcomed us into their home and were touchingly thoughtful. I will never forget that Christmas when my daughter was expecting lavish gifts (which had earlier been the norm), and they gave me a gift coupon worth hundred dollars. They have a place in my heart that’s truly special, and will always be. At the same time, some of our friends just drifted away into oblivion. That experience has been learning for me. I know and value my friends. And I know not to expect anything from the seasonal ones. Those are the ones you enjoy with – while the spring lasts. Come winter, and it is hibernation time. I rather value that hibernation while being thankful for the fun we had during spring. It is a welcome diversion – that spring time fun. But the all-weather ones are the ones you die for.

I am not sure if it is my age, or the distance from my loved ones, but I have come to peace with myself. There was a time when I needed to be around people to keep my sanity. Now, I would rather be alone than in company which does not excite me. Between my home and the outside world, the one that lures me is one where I can be myself. So the choice becomes quite obvious. Unless the outside world can really allow me to be comfortable in my own skin, and not judge me for being me, I do not feel the urge or the need to go out and make friends. But some come along, and you connect instantly. You don’t always need a quarter of a century to make a friend!

I remember my sister recounting the meeting of my mom with her friend from school. They were really close at the time – best friends, as we say. They got married, and then forgot to write letters. They were probably meeting after a few decades. The friend had tears of joy. Seeing my mom was like a dream come true for her. Their lives have completely changed from the time they were friends to now, when they had nothing left to connect over. We are lucky to be able to stay connected with people we love. The internet has turned bus-mates, college friend´s friends and mere colleagues into dear friends. It is surprising how we are able to connect to mere acquaintances virtually, and feel so close. I revel in that feeling of being connected. And for those I lost on my way, I miss them. They are there in my thoughts, and I sometimes go back to those happy times when we were still connected. But I do not want to cling to my past and miss out on what future holds for me. So I look forward to friends who will come my way in future, and I wait eagerly.