I met Jane* when we were both eight years old. We lived in the same area, went to the same elementary school and, unsurprisingly enough, had the same classes. I guess you could say that we were bound to meet each other.
The first time we officially met was sometime during art class. It was an animal drawing class, where I realized I had no aptitude for art whatsoever when what was supposed to be a simple drawing of a penguin instead turned out to be an unrecognizable blob.
Instead of focusing on what was being taught, I got into the unfavourable habit of talking. Jane just so happened to have had the (unfortunate) opportunity to sit beside me. She was pretty quiet, but I struck up a conversation with her anyway while I was finishing up my latest artistic catastrophe.
I think I said something stupid like “I like your pencil case,” which was totally true, because I really did admire her Barbie-themed, rhinestone studded pencil case.
She said she liked mine too, but I doubted that, since mine had been a plastic container that my mom fished out of god knows where, with so many cracks and chips that it was a wonder it could still hold things without completely falling apart.
During the next four summers, we would ride our bikes out to the local parks and lakes. In an attempt to cool off, we’d buy ice cream and slushies on days when it got really hot. We’d also sleepover at each other’s houses once in a while, and if we got really, really lucky, her much older sister would invite us over to her house where we could swim for hours on end in an outdoor swimming pool. I guess you could say that we had some pretty rad times.
Needless to say, we’d gotten really close during those years. The term “best friend” slipped out at some point and it became natural call each other by it.
However, somewhere around the time we hit middle school, Jane’s parents told her that they were moving. They were going to some place that I’d never even heard of before, let alone knew how to spell, and at first I didn’t think it would really happen.
Reality only sunk in a few months later, when her house, which was once cluttered with paraphernalia and rustic furniture, was empty and sealed boxes were all that was left of the place that had been second home for me.
We promised each other that we’d keep in touch. We messaged each other online – I always asked her how she was doing, and if she liked where she lived. She said she did, and that her new house was much nicer than her old one.
These kinds of shallow conversations became typical, and over the next few years, our relationship, which had once been filled with laughter and constant banter, had been reduced to “How was your week?” and “It was okay.”
She always promised to visit, but she never did, and it’s not hard to see why. She lived way too far, and had no relatives in the city we grew up in, so it would have been difficult for her to do so.
We stopped talking altogether in high school. It wasn’t because we had a falling out, although we did have our rough moments, but our friendship slowly withered and died like a plant that hadn’t been watered for weeks. The decay was natural, and there was genuinely no bad blood between us.
It’s been years since we last messaged each other, and even more years since we last held a real conversation. I look back at this experience and I’m torn apart by the conflicting feelings that resonate within me when I recall everything that transpired during our friendship.
It’s disheartening to have someone who had once been so close to you turn into a complete stranger in such a short amount of time. I always think it was a mistake on my part to discard a friendship that had been so strong for so many years, but then I recall that we’ve both changed in many ways.
For so many years I held a static image of Jane as 12-year-old girl, wholly unchanging in my memory. That was the kind of girl I thought of every time we talked during our brief online correspondence. She was still the girl that liked the same anime shows that I did, even though she didn’t anymore.
Somewhere during those years, I had failed to notice when everything started to change. I saw some small signs, sure, like the fact that we started to diverge in our views on life. Before I knew it, years later, our differences became all too apparent, and it was no longer something I could ignore.
She’s still a wonderful person, but I question whether or not we would have been friends if we had met as strangers during this point of our lives. We don’t like the same T.V. shows and movies anymore, we have differing strong political views, and we don’t have the same taste in…well…anything. Most importantly, we just don’t get each other’s sense of humour any more.
So, to answer the hypothetical question of whether we would have been friends had we met as strangers later in life, to be honest, I don’t think so. I’ve finally come to terms with the idea that time changes people. A lot. The girl you were friends with way back when won’t necessarily be the same person a couple years later.
Although it’s disheartening to see people change so much, and to have someone who had once met the world to you become so insignificant in such short of a time, it’s completely natural. As the French say: C’est la vie. Such is life.
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons
This author has chosen to remain anonymous.