Then-and-Now Friends

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Most of the people I count as friends today entered my life in relatively recent times. Adulthood, most certainly. (For the purposes of this article, I'll consider "adulthood" as the start of college onward.)

Actually, I'd venture to say that the majority of my friends today developed in the time since I moved back to Houston from London in late 2001.

Is that true of most of us—that our current friends are somewhat new acquisitions? Or is it just me?

Either way, I do yet have a significantly smaller set of friends from my preadulthood days, including a handful from junior high and a pinch from high school. And when I count them in the friend ranks still, it's because they knew me well then and they know me well now: We talk at least once every few months and we see each other in person when we can.

Recently, I've remembered why we need people in our lives who have known us through multiple stages:

  • Catching up with a friend made on the first day of junior high, I told her about this blog and started to explain why I'd started it. Before I could finish, she said something like, "I know. I remember." It stopped me. The first Leslie she met was an eleven year old who wrote novels in notebooks and dreamed of being a writer. She does know. She would remember.

  • A high-school friend, who reappeared a few years ago after a long hiatus, recalls so much of what I've forgotten. When we get together now, she tells stories of our high school adventures that I only remember through her prompts. She rebuilds my memories.

Sometimes friends who have known us for many years can crystallize who we truly are--and remind us when we forget. We evolve and we reinvent ourselves. People who have only known us in one life stage can never know the strata beneath it. The history is important because, even though we have grown, we are in many ways the same. Someone who has the breadth of perspective can ground us.

This isn't to discount more recently made friends. I enjoy creating memories with them that we'll recount when we're elderly: Stories that will remind us who we truly are and give us a shorthand that makes a lot of backstory unnecessary.