The last day of Christmas break, I made the dangerous decision to start rifling through the closet in my high school bedroom. I pulled down a small cluster of boxes, one of which I think I had painted at a birthday party I attended in the 7th grade. As I unfolded scrap after scrap after scrap of crinkled paper, I couldn’t believe what was in there.
A paper flower made for me by my high school boyfriend.
A birthday card that included a sketch of an extremely muscular right arm.
A postcard that addressed me formally as “Mud Lord.”
A farewell poem from my middle school friends from when I moved away.
Somewhere in the midst of these long-forgotten memories, a letter from a friend that was worried they were losing me.
I couldn’t even bring myself to finish that letter because it was too real. Like this multitude of paper scraps, I have a particular gift for striking up friendships with an abundance of people. The flip side of that is all too many of those friendships are cast aside like these long-forgotten scraps of paper.
I’m much more likely to cling to fictional friendships than I am to real ones. Almost every year of my life since about the third grade, I have returned to the Harry Potter series, poring over the latest illustrated editions and falling asleep to the sound of Jim Dale’s voice reading them aloud. At one point in my life I introduced these books to a close friend, telling them that reading these was something like meeting my childhood friends.
Whenever I find myself facing some sort of significant life event, I turn to the corresponding episode of Gilmore Girls. Have I watched the dance marathon episode twelve times? I would say it’s highly likely. Have I pondered the reason behind Lorelai’s break-up with Max Medina a thousand times? Surely yes.
I heard the song “Netflix Trip” by AJR for the first time within the past year. These lines in particular stand out to me every time:
But who I am is in these episodes
So don’t you tell me that it’s just a show.
I can’t deny the fact that part of who I am comes from the books and TV shows that I love most. But I’m constantly wondering why it’s easier for me to spend time with them than the friends that I love the most.
If you are someone gifted with the skill of maintaining friendships, I cannot relate. I have always been jealous of my friends who have had the same friends since kindergarten. I am not sure how I feel about New Year resolutions. Sometimes I think they perpetuate how toxic our culture of productivity can be. But if someone forced me to make one, it would be to rekindle some of the friendships that I shoved into the shoebox in my closet.
If you are reading this and you have felt crumpled up and cast aside by me, I would like to apologize. If you regret some of your own friendships that have become dusty from disuse, I am right there with you. If you are bitter about friends who have cast you aside, maybe your friends are like me and they didn’t mean it maliciously. The skill of friendship is not necessarily innate. I wish that it was.
Susannah Boersma graduated from Calvin University in May of 2020. She studied secondary English education. She lives in Grand Rapids and works at Carson City-Crystal High School as an English teacher.