15. Song No. 93: “Aging Friends (Snowcapped),” Kids These Days
All These Interruptions, 2004
Yes, the bookending tracks to one of my favorite albums absolutely deserve props so early in this project. I absolutely love this song, even if it becomes soberingly poignant the older we get.
My own mortality is inevitable, as my mid-30s enjoy reminding me (I recently passed the milestone of sleeping on my arm so wrong that it was half-dead all day!). Existing is exhausting, and non-existence at least means I’ll stop thinking about some dumb thing I did eons ago that nobody else remembers but still ambushes me with paralyzing, stomach-clenching embarrassment at least a couple times every year. But considering my loved ones’ deaths? Let’s not, and no thank you.
Most of my closest friends have been in my life for at least a decade; somehow, I even have more high school friends than my knack for social sabotage should have driven away these past 20ish years. We’ve seen graduations, marriages, divorces, growing families, too-close deaths, new jobs, lost jobs, happy moves, rescue-mission moves, illness, vacations, friend-group-specific holidays and traditions, and all manner of personal seismic shifts in that time together, and they all leave their mark on relationships in their own ways.
Not all good relationships are lasting relationships, and not all lasting relationships are good relationships. But they all have their merit and potential as learning lessons: Knowing and recognizing what you don’t like or want from other people is just as important as what you do. And you never know how you’ll react to certain situations until you stare them down yourself. Which is partly how empathy is made, and I feel confident in saying that few things are as fundamental in being a decent person as empathy.
Those next-chapter moments, whether they’ve been a long time coming or they’re total bombshells, both test who’s meant to stay behind once your life settles into its newest form and mark the ones who are meant to come along with shared memories of a watershed moment you experienced together. For someone who always thought common interests are the glue that unite two people, it was a revelatory realizing that intertwining paths are what really strengthen an interpersonal bond because the long haul’s big moments distill everyone’s true motivations more honestly and vulnerably than anything else. Even the most guarded people let you peek through their cracks if you stand beside them long enough; even the best liar loses the threads of their manufactured narratives when they’ve spun more tales than they can keep track of.
Nothing softens rough edges or erodes familiar features like time, and compatibly adapting to those shifting winds together is key. You don’t have to start out in the same place or be made of complementing pieces, but you do have to be heading in the same direction and want to be flexible enough to keep growing together no matter what it takes. It’s work that’s not always easy but, if you’ve found your people, it is always worth it.
It’s not just your partner you age with, especially if you come to regard your friends as family tethered to you by more than cultivated fondness. But if you’re lucky, you don’t just get older together: You grow together, too. Which is how you stay together. And it’s making me sad my friends are aging, but you don’t get to make a lifetime of memories without time marching on in the first place.
(This piece also inspired one of my Stereo Stories submissions.)