23 October 2010

Mourning What Might Have Been

I got some news this week that put me in a bit of a funk.  Thankfully, nothing serious, and most certainly a first world problem. But still, it caused me a bit of angst.  I’ll get to that but you first need the back story.

Several years ago, I was part of The Crew, a group of friends and alliances formed through a bunch of young singletons moving to the city and conquer the world as corporate drones. We became friends out of necessity, each of us new to the area, with few ties and needing camaraderie.  There were seven of us at the heart of the group, with a few others added in over the years as people moved to town, or old relationships rekindled.

I have very few memories of my first five or six years here that don’t somehow include the Crew.  We spent weekends together, hitting local bars and restaurants; grilling out by the pool; playing ultimate Frisbee; and just being together.  We had our own Holiday dinners together before heading out of town to our respective families. Some of us vacationed together. We spent weekends in the mountains, hiking.   We were, in a lot of ways, our own real life version of Friends or Beverly Hills, 90210 (the original, not the remake), complete with all the variations of relationships that went on in those shows.

I remember thinking several years ago that this would all end, eventually. Or at a minimum, change. We’d get married, change jobs, move, and lose touch. Like the characters on Friends, time and circumstance would eventually cause us to part ways. Yet, I thought we’d connect for weddings and births, exchange Holiday cards, and celebrate major life events.

Despite knowing that most of us would eventually become only Christmas card friends, there are a few people from the Crew I thought would be in my life forever.  Friendships I put a lot of effort into.  This week, it’s become apparent that save for one couple, I’ve been left behind? Moved on? from the Crew.

I lost frequent contact with the person in the Crew that I was closest to.  Someone who, perhaps, I fell a bit in love with at one point. Someone who gave the signals that perhaps he was interested as well, until I learned that was largely his modus operandi. When my personal and professional life settled down, I reached out again to this person, telling him how much I missed our friendship, how sorry I was that I hadn’t been able to put the effort into our friendship as much lately, and that I wanted to make our friendship a priority again if he was willing. Crickets. I’ve never received any response from him. At a Christmas party a couple of years ago, after this attempted reconciliation, I saw him and we exchanged the type of polite, impersonal conversation you share with people you don’t know at a first meeting. 

While it had been evident in other circumstances- a birthday dinner, a dinner when one of our Crew was home from London for a few days-it finally became clear to me at that party that I was no longer a priority with some of these people who I had at one time considered amongst my closest friends.

What it took me a while to acknowledge is that I never was a priority with these particular people. I can see with time and perspective, I always put a lot more into the friendship with these two individuals than they did with me. I chose to not see it when it was going on, because my perceived reality made me happy. I enjoyed being with these people. It filled some void I had, and gave me a pseudo-family.

I learned yesterday that one of these people has married, and the other is now engaged, and I am feeling a sense of mourning. Grief for what I now realize is what could have been.  If our friendship had been equal, if I had been a priority to them, if I had not been largely out of touch for a couple of years because of constant travel and incredibly long work hours, I may have been a part of these celebrations.

If I’m being honest, there was an element of self pity in there as well. With these two marriages, I’m the last of the Crew to settle down. Yes, I’ve got the mortgage and the good job and the home repairs that make you an adult, but I don’t have the husband and kids.  And at this stage of my life, I’m relatively certain that is not in the cards for me, which I am working to be OK with. Still, it makes one feel a bit defective when you feel like all your friends are on board the same train, and you’re standing on the platform, watching that train pull out of the station and leave you behind.  Like I said, that’s a moment of self-pity, and I quickly pushed that to the back of my mind.

So, the point of all this? I’m not sure. Perhaps my own catharsis, closing the door on a previous phase of my life. Solidifying these as nice memories with people I needed in my life for a particular reason at a particular time. People and times I can remember fondly but leave them in the past, where they belong.  Instead, I can focus on the people who are still a part of my life. The people I prioritize, and who prioritize me. Celebrate what is, and what is to come, not mourn what might have been. 


  1. It is apropos to feel grief. No, no babies are dying, but it is real and salient as the hadal depths are deep. It is encouraging to hear that you may find catharsis in this moment of your life. Celebrate through the pain, not in spite of it, and do so with those who prioritize and cherish you. My hope for you is to find a fuller you that is still open to the pulp-rich choices life has to offer. Also may you offer your beauty to others that may lack the cunning, wit, and luck of being a Scotch-Irish Madb.

  2. Thank you for your kind words. I'm working on that fuller part!