To all the friendships I’ve left behind

Exploring the feeling of drifting apart from friends

Crystal Cheng

To one of the closest friendships I have ever created in an exceptionally short amount of time

I think I told you already that I initially approached you because it felt similar to having a crush. Maybe back then I was just excited that if this went a certain way, I would have the opportunity to be in a “real” relationship. But I think it’s good we never went down that route and never tainted our friendship with the complexities of a relationship when it wasn’t necessary. With you, I learned about the fluidity of friendships — how quality time doesn’t require a label and how daily 12 a.m to 3 a.m. conversations are the quickest way to truly get to know someone. Faceless phone calls at times in the morning we shouldn’t have been awake provided the perfect environment — an aura of anonymity coupled with a lack of judgment to confide all of our secrets in each other, yet three months before, we had no idea of the other’s existence. 

Graphic | Crystal Cheng

Even within the year we met, we grew to be different people, ultimately faced with incompatibility which was probably the root cause of our current disconnection. Or maybe our friendship, rooted in convenience and a symbiotic relationship, where you helped me with physics and I offered … my vivacious personality, couldn’t last the new year when we no longer had classes together. Plotting the journey of our friendship, we went from calling every night to no longer texting, but I’m not sad, and I don’t think you are either. 

From what happened with us, I realized that any type of friendship can have its ups and downs, and a bond coming to an end doesn’t mean failure. The pain with the realization that we went from everything to nothing eventually faded. I still see you around school sometimes, and I usually avoid eye contact, but other times I’ll wave and you’ll acknowledge me briefly. That’s all we have left, the most microscopic remnant of our past friendship, but the fact that it exists is evidence of the time we passed through each other’s lives.  

To a summer camp friendship

Although I wouldn’t categorize what we have now as one of my left-behind friendships, it’s unavoidable to say that we are not who we were last summer. From getting on our first flight together to realizing we would need to spend an extra 36 hours in a city 2,000 miles away from home when our connecting flight got canceled, not to mention barely finding a hotel that would accept minors as guests, our friendship thrived in the face of panic. But even though we spent three weeks together, engaged in conversations about everything we could possibly imagine, what we were left with after the summer was an inevitably faded version of what we had before. We have no opportunities to see

What we were left with after the summer was an inevitably faded version of what we had before. Photo Illustration | Crystal Cheng

each other on a regular basis, and since you live too far away for us to spend time together during most of the year, we’ve prioritized going to other people for the conversations we used to share.

A couple of months ago, when I saw you in person for the first time since that summer, we started talking by asking each other the question, “How have you been?” With a friendship strong enough as what we used to have, this question never seemed to be necessary — that’s how I knew our summer camp friendship had disappeared. After brief exchanges of topics ranging from college to my old crush, we fell into an uncomfortable awkward silence  surrounding two people who didn’t know how to interact with each other anymore. 

When I left that day, I remember feeling guilty that we had lost our friendship, but then you texted me a lost picture from summer camp and it sent me back to when we shared that inside joke from the second day of camp, and it made me feel a little bit better. Even if we’ll never get back to the comfortable dynamic of the summer, I know we can always rely on camp memories to keep the slightest connection alive. After all, having something is better than nothing.   

To an elementary school friend: 

I still remember spending every recess and lunch together, sitting and giggling on the benches as the two carefree 8-year-olds we were. When you began teaching me gymnastics, I was right next to you when you excitedly managed to pull off an aerial, and we started spending every lunch on the field so we could practice. To others, it was just grass, but to us, it was a mattress of infinite possibility, a training ground to enhance our “advanced” gymnastics skills. 

Our descent into something less began in middle school, when the electives we chose in sixth grade defined who we were and eventually, the

Graphic | Crystal Cheng

worlds we became a part of. I chose orchestra, committing myself to a new group of friends, while you stayed with our elementary school group. We were never hindered by the restrictions of distance or scheduling like my other friendships. Ours was a friendship that just grew apart, while we, as individuals, grew up. You went from my best friend to someone I never talk to anymore.  

Occasionally we still find ourselves in situations that allow us to rekindle a version of the friendship that was strong when we were young. However, we’re both OK though; the separate lives we now lead are happy ones, with our own circles and friendship dynamics that do the job to keep us afloat and keep moving forward. 

To every friendship I’ve left behind: 

Sometimes I wonder if there was a possibility we could have kept our bond. If we worked a little harder, wanted it a little bit more, maybe today we would still be talking. But I know that with all the growth and changes that come with the transition from childhood to adulthood, it’s unrealistic to hold on to every special person you meet. I’m satisfied knowing I cherished the time I had with you and created memories that subconsciously still influence me to this day. While the future holds no guarantee we’ll ever see each other again, it was nice while it lasted.