I just wanted to write a little article in homage to my Old Friends (or, friends who’ve known me for 3+ years. This constitutes as old, in my head.)
From experience I’ve learned that it’s very important, where you can, to keep a handle on your Old Friends. This probably sounds textbook, but it’s something that’s only really come to the forefront of my mind quite recently on having truly reconnected with some of them.
Old Friends are excellent because they are loyal, they have great reminiscing potential (as you cry with terror at how embarrassing you were when you were a “scene” kid in school, for instance) and in gaining an Old Friend, you can, to an extent, “grow up” together. I think that people are always growing up and changing (the concept of only “growing up” when you are a child is a total lie, in my opinion, except in the literal sense of getting taller) so to have an Old Friend who is going through similar motions – or is watching you with mild concern but letting you get on with your shit anyway because they love you – is very comforting.
I have one friend who I’ve known for about sixteen years, which is an utterly amazing, mad prospect in my head – sixteen years we’ve known each other!? We may as well be married! I feel so fortunate to have a friendship so set in stone when so much else in my life is changeable and unreliable – she still makes me laugh like a weirdo whenever we meet up, guaranteed. I don’t know what it is. I think it’s thousands of accumulated subconscious in-jokes built up over a whole lifetime of friendship exploding back to life whenever we’re in the same vicinity. We don’t even talk that often – it’s just an Old Friendship that’ll always exist, like the forgotten box of cereal at the back of your cupboard. Our friendship is stale cereal. In the loveliest sense.
Looking fairly chubby-faced but cheerful with my stale cereal buddy
In saying this, I don’t think you have to have been friends with someone for an entire lifetime to consider them an Old Friend (this is more an Ancient Friend of wizard-like proportions, where it will basically be completely impossible for you to lose contact ever. I think me and Issy [the name of my sixteen-years-still-strong buddy] have an internal signalling system now where even when we don’t talk to each other for months, we are still connected in some weird, ritualistic manner.) They say that if you’re friends with someone for more than seven years, then you’re friends for life. I think that’s a bit of a big number. I think if you get past three years, you’re on a roll. Three years, in my head, shows a Commitment.
That’s the great thing about Old Friends. They’re ‘old’ because they’re committed to you. How nice is that? Someone who you mutually liked enough to make your friend when you were a nobhead teenager is still making an effort to keep you, as you are them. That makes me feel all smushy inside. I have a handful of beloved friends from school who I still talk to on a weekly or monthly basis, amazed because they stuck with me when I was hideously embarrassing and thought myself to be completely unlovable (an ugly duckling of sorts – puberty was not kind to me.) And because we begun our friendships in such a tumultuous period of time, it’s even more flattering that they didn’t go anywhere – these Old Friends have continued to love me despite all my evolutions. That is no shallow love. That shit is real. As such, whenever I see my Old Friends from school again, it feels like my personal definition of “home” (comfort and safety and, more often than not, a shitload of take-out food.) Having an Old Friend cuddle is like stepping into a bubble bath of warming, happy times, without the allergic reaction (I’m allergic to Radox, though thankfully not allergic to Old Friends.)
Basking in the past with Old Friends also paves the way for anticipating a lovely future containing these same people. The Old Friends who’ve stayed with you through school, through arguments, relocations and weird adventures, have proven through their ongoing presence in your life that it’s very likely that you can predict a Long Friendship Withstanding with them for many more years to come.
Old Friends are important. Old Friends are far more likely to understand you on an integral level than New Friends (though New Friends may be able to do that too [particularly if your New Friend is a therapist]). This is why I super value Conversations with Old Friends – they’re reliable conversations with often a 0% presence of awkwardness, in which you can talk about whatever mundane detail you wish without worrying that they’ll hate you or not “get” it. Where a New Friend might be like, “Why is this strange lady telling me about her new cat-patterned socks? I don’t care about cat-patterned socks…” an Old Friend might be like “Thank GOD she got those damn cat-patterned socks. She’s only been looking for some for like, THREE YEARS.”
My Old Friend Arron, who would applaud the purchase of cat-patterned socks
Old Friends roam in territories that goes uncharted by New Friends (I mean, you don’t want to terrify your lovely New Friends with all of your personal drama when you’re trying to make them like you. That is what Old Friends help you to address. New Friends should be broken in gently.) Old Friends have your back in the most snug and loving sense, for in a time of emotional crisis any Old Friend can provide some comfort to you. They remind you that there are those who love you, who are sticking around to watch you grow, and those who’ll always remind you of home.
In saying this, I don’t want to discredit the greatness that is New Friends. New Friends should equally be celebrated. For instance, if you’ve changed quite dramatically over a period of time, New Friends won’t bat an eyelash. New Friends accept your personality traits as they are, something which Old Friends often have more trouble with adjusting to (doesn’t mean they don’t love you, maybe they just don’t anticipate certain changes.) Ever been told by an Old Friend that they really didn’t expect something of you? I got a tattoo recently and some of my Old Friends were completely shocked, thinking it did not fit the character they’d pictured me as in their head. Old Friends can ocassionally find it hard to adapt an old image of you to what’s in front of them, whereas a New Friends takes everything they see as normal. The gently mutating, fresh person in front of them is simply you. They may even become the Gateway Friend to trying new things with you within your Blank Slate of Friendship (not meaning to imply drugs – I mean like Street Dance. Or horse-riding, or maybe your New Friend is a trapeze enthusiast.) New Friends can teach you new things.
But you need your Old Friends to keep the sensation of “home-memory” alive. You don’t even have to have thousands of Old Friends to feel this – one is good, though I am lucky enough to say truly that I have a few. Particularly when you look past the traditional conception of friendship. In my head, Old Friends are not restricted to humans. I know many animals who I consider to be Old Friends, faithful dogs and cats I’ve owned and the pets of my friends (also internet animals. Does Grumpy Cat qualify as an Old Friend?) Alternatively an Old Friend might be the bartender you always see working on a Saturday night and share a few words with (whilst you sit with your other Old Friend, Gin. HAHAHA, joking. You shouldn’t count alcohol as a friend… seriously. No.) New Friends can also become great Old Friends – you’d never make the latter without making the former. Some of my Newer Friends I obtained whilst at university or abroad, and I just know which ones will become Old Friends.
But I’m going to stop this here, for fear of waffling on about the ins-and-outs of great friendships for the next millenia. This was, after all, only supposed to be a short tribute.
Do not neglect your Old Friends, even when you go through periods of life in which you are making New Friends or doing new things. Remember always to appreciate them, the ones who have loved you always and will continue to love you still. Old Friends allow you to go home to people that feel like home.