“Isn’t that going to be weird?”
That’s the first question asked by your most recent circle of friends when you’re meeting a comrade from days long gone by. And no matter how much you’ve been trying to tell yourself that it won’t be weird or awkward, you know there’s some truth in what they’re saying.
That’s not to say old friends should be jettisoned like rocket boosters as you hit your mid-20s orbit. Rather, it’s about managing expectations. The party animal who you shared so many nights you’ll never forget and more that you’ll never remember? Chances are that if he’s in a 9 to 5 by now, he may have calmed down somewhat.
The fact is that none of the friends you had at 17 are the same as they were back then, and more importantly, neither are you. Particularly true of arts students, you enter your university years with all sorts of plans and good intentions. You’ll study English literature and in ten years time be the youngest ever editor of a national broadsheet. You’ll master Spanish and Japanese and travel the world working for the UN. You’ll learn how to iron a shirt properly, and cook sausages without the fire brigade being called. You’ll get 7 McNuggets when you ordered 6. All far from unattainable, but much more difficult that the optimistic 17 year old you were had you believe.
So, when you leave university, degree in hand, and go about establishing yourself in the adult world, (let’s not kid ourselves, for the majority college acts as a buffer between teenage years and adulthood), it’s unreasonable to think that this change in parameters won’t result in a change of attitude and personality. It may be slight, even imperceptible, but it’ll be there.
A lot of this is a physical necessity. When you look back at Rag Week carnage you put yourself through in college, you wonder how in the name of Dutch Gold you managed to survive at all. By your mid-twenties, the mere thoughts of the Tuesday fear after a bank holiday weekend is enough to fill you with dread. The very idea of drinking Sunday through to Friday is enough to make you reach for a spice bag and a lucozade.
So, if you’re a different person to what you were when you started college, you can be damn sure so are the friends you made in orientation week and kept ever since, even if you only see each other on a Facebook newsfeed. When you do finally meet in person again, sure it’s a bit awkward at first as you each try and suss what’s changed.
But the beauty of the meeting is how the conversation segues from stilted pleasantries to reminiscenses and forgotten in-jokes. Old friends know more about you than many new acquaintances could ever hope to. They were there for the terrible fashion choices, the questionable hairstyles, the first loves and the first break-ups. You may think you’re a big city slicker now, and you may even be able to get away with that with recently made friends, but that holds no sway with old allies. They saw those frosted tips.
So embrace old friends, meet them as often as your busy lives will allow. Book five days off and re-create rag week, and have another 5 days booked off for recovery. Be interested in what’s going on in their lives and be interesting about what’s going on in yours. Introduce them to new friends, take a step back and watch the web of connections that is your life grow stronger and more beautifully complicated.
But don’t you dare resurrect those frosted tips.