The Value of Long-term Relationships
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So this weekend had me thinking about old friends and more than that the value of those long-term and deep friendships. What got my head into that space was a series of phone calls this weekend and the fact that I’ll be traveling soon to Second Star’s wedding. First I spoke to my friend Dina, then today to my friend Brian. They both come from the same time period of in my life when we were all resident assistants at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh. That time in my life was the most amazing period for me. It was the time, the first time in my life everything came together. I was doing well, I had a lot of friends, had figured out the dating thing for the first time. I was in my first real position of authority and responsibility and was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I was working with high school students who really needed someone who cared about them. It was such an incredible and rewarding time.
Recently, I’ve connected via LinkedIn to a couple of my old fraternity brothers at the Rochester Institute of Technology. A period before my time in SUNY Plattsburgh and quite an opposite period of time. I was on my own for the first time, away from home and I was not in a good space. I was angry and depressed and really lost in my life, I was a bit out of control and quickly turned to drugs and alcohol to numb myself. Life went wrong, and after a year and a half I finally failed out of college. While I was there I joined a fraternity and although I wasn’t being the most productive student in the world, I made some good friends and had a really good time. I was avoiding a lot of things in my life, but I sure had fun. My friend Dan who I spoke to today from that time is someone I haven’t spoken to in 35 years. It was really great to catch up and it was amazing how comfortable the conversation was, how easily we fell into conversation. Says something about the bond we created a long time ago pledging a fraternity together, traveling home together on breaks and hours and hours and hours of Dungeons and Dragons.
Tonight, part of what delayed me working on my Sunday night post was a phone call from my friend Mary. Another friend from my SUNY Plattsburgh days and Mary is someone I’ve always been able to absolutely be my self with. She’s someone who gives me a hard time, who I can joke around with and who I’ve always been really impressed with how strong she has always been. Her and I have been through marriages, divorces, illnesses and deaths together, those things forge deep bonds.
The biggest thing that hit me was that between these four friends, I’ve known them for a total of 142 years. One of the nice things about getting old is that you have a tendency to hang on to the people you’ve always felt comfortable with, the people who accepted you at your best and at your worst. My friend Dan once cleaned the fraternity bathroom after I had obliterated it, and then got me cleaned up and into my room taking care of me. He also hit me with a Star Trek themed bill the next day, something that I still have buried in a box somewhere.
People who have been with you all across your journey, not because of obligation but because of choice are people worth hanging on to. They are the three in the morning people, the friends who you can call at 3AM and just say I need you, and they come. They love your for who you are, faults and all, the same way you love them.
The lesson tonight is simple. There is no way it should have ever gotten to 35 years that I hadn’t spoken with Dan. Limit the gaps in time between talks and visits with these people. Time with them is precious time, time well spent, the type of time that at the end of your life, when you look back, makes you happy you made the effort to spend. You’ll regret how often you didn’t do this, and time with these people along the way are those happy times, times when we can truly be ourselves and those moments are so valuable. The more of them you have, the happier your days my friends. ~ Rev Kane