As soon as I left University, everything almost eventually aligned to one thing, making money. It’s not an option. There is no alternative, no other way. It is what adults do. They make a living.
Apart from working, there are few other things that occupy our days; ‘callings’ that don’t pay, after-work pass times and for some, hanging out with friends. But for others like me, the idea of friendship has become like the myths that our grandparents once believed in. True friends have become sparser and sparser to locate.
In high school, I had that crew of friends whom I did everything with. It was just like primary school, where everyone was grouped into threes or more. It was a very rare child that did not have at least one person to play with at break time or eat with at lunch time. Going away from my home country for university changed that. I got used to eating lunch in my room in front of an episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta. My days were almost identical to each other, almost never interrupted by an invitation to do something with someone. I remember that one day, my father asked me how school was and I said, “Monotonous.” And he said, “You think university is monotonous, try working.” I did not understand it then.
Then university ended, and I came back home. Most of the friendships I had made were never strong enough to last the long distance. It seemed as if leaving had built a wall between us. I was not one of them anymore. We had not shared the same experiences. We had grown so much and in such separate ways while apart that it was not wrong to call us strangers. For some, there was almost a begrudging nature in the tatters of our old bonds, for others there was a detachment so clean-cut that you could not tell that we once called each other best friends. They seemed to say, Life has moved on, move on.
I struggled to place the divides between work “friends”, Book club “friends”, Facebook happy-birthday-only “friends”, my sisters’ friends, my boyfriend’s friends and people whom I just got along with. The depths of these relationships were revealed soon enough when I realised that I knew only the superficial side of these people, only their happy smiles and appropriate laughter. But they had never let me in, and neither had I. We knew nothing about each other’s struggles, pain or the things that really mattered to us.
There are those old friends I did meet, whom I had last seen when we were in uniforms and socks, and to my surprise they had never changed. They were the exact same person I had known then and yet I could not stand them. And in those instances, It is I who had changed.
There are those with whom every conversation seemed like a competition over who was farther ahead in life, who made you wait two hours to see them because they were meeting another friend. There are those who talked to you so that they would be the most legitimate source of lugambo (gossip) about your life. There are those whom I disappointed, whose wedding meetings I attended naïvely and absolutely unprepared. After my own wedding, I understood that my non-invitation to their parties was not personal.
I have always revered friendship as a deep strong bond that never ends, but with adulthood, I think, it’s okay to take the watered down version we get. Maybe let’s not call it friendship. I heard that they are called “colleagues”.
But there were also a few, I can count on my one hand, who lingered on like the nostalgic smell of the perfume of someone you love, who still try hard to keep the flame burning. Sometimes I wondered why, when a lifetime had passed between us? What more do we have in common, when it feels like starting afresh? Maybe it’s because there are some bonds which are hard to forget. A few bonds which are difficult to break.