Moving back to Georgia has been my dream since I moved away seven and a half years ago to marry my now husband, Alan. A bit ironic as when I was in High School the very LAST thing I wanted was to live in Georgia. I wanted to see the world, have adventures, be successful and accomplish my dreams. I enjoyed growing up here, loved my family and by all accounts had lots of friends through school but over the years I managed to lose touch with almost all of them. Now that I'm back in the area, I realize that there were only a couple that I stuck with and that stuck with me during all those years away. This is not to make anyone feel bad or for people to pity me. I say this only because I am realizing a few things as I get older.
First - I have had a great life. Not always easy nor what I would have wanted but a great one nevertheless. Second - I have lived in a lot of places and had three pretty succesful careers. Third - I have lived in four different countries and away from Georgia longer than I have lived here. And finally, I have come away from it all (again, family aside) with hardly any close friends. Oddly I hardly ever felt lonely and my Facebook says I have over 400 friends so how can this be?
Well, I often ask myself that same question. But when I look closer at the list, each and every person was with me during a special season in my life. Maybe they came to see us in Germany on a team or we were a part of Teen Missions together. I worked with a few in Wales or in Seattle, New York or Chicago. We may have grown up together, gone to college or grad school or been part of a volunteer organization at the same time. Lots were close to me or were family during my first marriage and others got close when my marriage ended. Going to church helped me make friends in Seattle, Birkenhead, Heidelberg and Watkinsville and a great majority are my immediate and extended family. I sometimes contemplate de-friending those whom I haven't spoken to in years (or whom haven't spoken to me), but in a way, those "friends" are for me now more good memories than they are active presences in my life. They help me recall each piece of my journey and what God has brought me through and for that I am thankful.
Still, something for me is missing.
The New Yorker article I just read calls them "intimates". Those who call you up just to say, "let's go for lunch" or "how are you really?" or "want to come hang out?" And other than my immediate family I can think of only three or four people that have fallen into this category for me over the years and because of distance, only a couple remain. This in a way makes me sad. You see, a couple of months ago a girl I grew up with but wasn't close to, died. She was a couple of years older than me and had many very close friends who have stood by her since she was a girl. Mostly they lived around her here in Watkinsville or Athens all these years and they continued their friendship until she passed. Her funeral was very well attended. She was loved.
I think it's hard to go through something like that or even hear about it and not think about your own life, your own health and wonder how many more years God will give you on the earth. Death of someone you knew always makes you value your life more and want to make the most of every day. So I began to take toll of my life and ask myself, "do I have regrets?" (well yes, many) "What would I change if I could?" (not much, even the regrets) "Is it too late for me to have close friends?" and "Would I even have the time it takes to really foster them?".
Maybe you've asked these questions or maybe you're too young to give them a second thought. But I have learned, mostly the hard way, that the choices we make have lasting consequences. I chose to move away and to move often and I saw a lot of the world in doing so. I experienced things and places that most won't but I also missed out on a lot - things I enjoy like the yearly fall festivals and family get togethers, the Georgia football games and the various reunions. I missed more weddings and funerals than I attended. And in the end I missed out on having really deep, lasting friendships that could see you through decline and even death. If notice of my upcoming High School reunion tells me anything it is that I have been away a very long time because I hardly remember anyone at all.
So what about you? Did you also have a well traveled and experienced but lonely life or is it quite the opposite? I'd love to hear your thoughts.