Why You Shouldn’t Force Being Friends With Old School Mates

We’ve all had that moment. You’re walking through a grocery aisle, considering the merits of muesli versus granola (no? Just me?) And we see an old friend. Do we turn the other way and ignore them? Pretend to be intensely interested by a jar of pasta sauce? Or risk the (potentially awkward) chat?

Whether we like it or not, we’re growing up.

The person you may have been in Year 9 and promised to “never change” for your first boyfriend, is almost nowhere close to the person you are now. We begin to experience a whole range of changes between the moments we first don our high school uniform to… well, now. We all know the physical ed part, you know ladies, when the boys start to sound less like Joe Pesci circa Good Fellas and more Christian Bale circa Batman, among other things. Then there’s the changes that make you decide that you like Carol* more than Lara. And that Teegan is way cooler to hang out with than Gemma.

Here’s the thing. In high school, these people and relationships are your world. They’re all you know for a good six years of your life. And these people quite often become your measure of others as well. Seeing each other five days a week, spending lunch-time together and sharing your last $2 to split a frozen Fruit Box becomes all you know, and all that matters. Let’s fast forward a bit. You graduate and are cruelly thrust into the big bad world of tertiary education.

There are suddenly extra hours in your day that you can fill with things you actually want to do. One thing leads to another and suddenly you’re making new friends, people who are genuinely interested in the same obscure tea combinations that you are. You might feel guilty, confused and slightly peckish. Big changes tend to stimulate your stomach. But, you still have your high school friends and splitting time between the two is becoming increasingly hard.

And then you get to full time work, and the cycle sort of repeats itself. Almost out with uni friends and in with work colleagues. It’s almost inevitable.

I’ve been there. I’ve tried the whole “let’s-all-be-friends-because-you’re-all-my-friends-and-surely-all-you-have-in-common-isn’t-me” gathering. It has the potential to be great and sometimes, like minded people hit it off. Other times, you strike out. Then you’re back to splitting your time between friends and struggling to keep up appearances. It takes a certain friend to listen patiently to the same story a third time because you’re unsure if you’ve already told it.

Let me share a nugget of wisdom with you: it doesn’t have to be this way. You may look at yourself one year out of high school and realise that you have changed exponentially. Your friends will have too, whether you have taken the time to realise this as well or not (I’m kidding, but growing up can be all consuming.)

It is your choice who you choose to spend your time with, remember that. Sometimes this whole growing up thing can enlighten us in ways we may not be prepared to accept. Suddenly, Gemma may seem like an excellent person to hang out with. You might have found new hobbies that don’t involve anyone you know. You might have switched jobs. Oh yeah, you might have FINISHED HIGH SCHOOL. These are all big deals.

I for one, have discovered myriads of subjects I wasn’t previously interested in to be suddenly life defining. Gretchen Rubin, the author of “The Happiness Project” speaks the truth when she says “one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Know yourself and don’t stifle your changes.

You don’t have to pretend to be the same as you were in Year 12 around your high school friends just as much as you don’t need to be as cultured as you may think your new friends are. We’re all continuously growing up after all and your priorities may no longer consist of which benches you sit on at lunch or which sport group you’ve been allocated to. It is natural to feel torn at this stage in life.

Quite often, the answer isn’t always easy, nor apparent. But the sooner you make decisions to fill your life with people that genuinely make you happy, the sooner you begin to form a life that fills you with the same kind of excitement that splitting a frozen popper during a 40 degree lunch time did.

*I don’t actually know anyone named Carol, this is just a hypothetical situation. Not that I wouldn’t like to meet a Carol, I’m always open to new friends wink.

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