What is it that compels us to return to that which is old and familiar, comfortable and known? Much as we always return home (whatever “home” may be to the individual) with a sense of longing, an indescribable tug at the abdomen, we revisit old relationships and friendships, searching for some shred of the comparably secure past.
There is a particular warmth and anticipation when one glimpses an old friend for the first time in many intervening years. A sense that you he who stands before you, eager to receive the renewed tenderness of easy friendship of someone at once so familiar, yet so foreign. With some minutes, you warm up to the gestures and undulations of the friend’s voice and to regain past comforts, to remind yourself of the other person, to retrieve from the depths of memory the characteristics and idiosyncrasies of the companion you recollect from years ago, and compare notes with the current form.
The shifting nature of change and time is uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar, but that doesn’t stop you from trying to search the person for clues of the past, to remind you of your old pal and, perhaps, of your old self. Sometimes one realizes that you’re both the same flesh as you had been years ago, but that time and divergent paths of molded two different people, for better or for worse. You’ve both grown up.
Just as it is impossible to preserve the ephemeral, so, too, is the futility of imposing an unnatural constancy of individuals. Rekindling old friendships is one avenue through which to piece together the image of who you were and how far you’ve come, whether you’ve become corrupted with want during the intervening period, or disillusioned by the tides of reality. Who you are is ever-changing, colored by the prejudices of the times, subjected to the woes of the moment, prospects of the future, and memory of the past. Just as your friend has changed, so, too, have you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to anchor yourself — if only temporarily — to the past by visiting the comfortable affections of an old friend.
Tie-dye-stained fingers (summer 2010)
(Originally posted Dec. 26, 2011)