I remember a scene in a sit-com episode when one of the character laments his need to find a new friend at a relatively ‘old’ age. He says that it is impossible to find a good friend at his current age because he’s too old to strike a new friendship – he doesn’t know how! He’s probably in his late 20’s or early 30’s. It may be true that we form our long-lasting friendships when we are in our late teens or early 20’s. By the time we join the workforce and form a committed relationship with our respective partner, we’ve probably weeded out our superficial friends and keep our real friends. We may have 1000+ Facebook friends, but we know a shortlist of people who we will directly contact for anything significant with our life before we publish the news on our Facebook profile. In my case, there is certainly a close group of people who know the evolution process of a geek turning into a slightly overweight academic.
Before I continue that train of thought – you’re probably wondering what I am on about.
I have just returned from a wonderful dinner with two delightful friends, Robby and Esther. I have known them since 1993, from my uni days in Adelaide when I was still a skinny and geeky Computer Science student. They’ve been married since 2002 and have two children, Michelle and Jaden and have been living in Perth since 2006. I’ve been in Perth since Sunday to attend a conference and I thought it would be a good chance to catch up with them while I’m in town. It was great just to talk about our past as well as how life is treating us – while we savoured our delicious squid-ink linguine with tomato, basil and chilli sauce, pizza and caesar salad at Ciao Italia – a seemingly popular restaurant in South Perth. We covered a wide range of topics – from marriage, children, old friends to Indy’s toilet habits, with ease. (Thank you for such a beautiful evening Esther and Robby! I had a blast (and an incredibly full stomach!)). That’s what happens when you are with good friends – you don’t have any pretenses, you feel very comfortable in opening yourself up and sharing your life with them.
That got me thinking that it is quite true that it is difficult to form a long-lasting, deep and meaningful friendship as you get older. By the time you reach your 30’s or 40’s, you already have a close set of friends who you have confided in for years. When I moved to Adelaide again in 2004, I felt like an outsider again for some time – Adelaide being a tight-knit community, you often hear comments such as, “So you went to St. Cuthbert College? You probably know Joe then? I’m a good friend of his brother!” or “You’re from the Hills? Which part? … What? You’re Mrs. Finkleberry’s daughter?”. As I went to high school in Indonesia and only went to uni here, I often felt like an outsider as I couldn’t participate in such conversations. I still do, sometimes, but at least I have formed good friendships since then. Two of my good friends in Adelaide now are also migrants – one moved over from Bristol, UK many years ago and the other from the Netherlands. The friendships formed when we were all ‘old’ already. 🙂
I suppose you can always form good friendships however old you are – it is true that it is harder to do. It’s like somebody who enters the theatre with the film playing already. Somebody has to brief the latecomer on the story so far, so they can enjoy the rest of the ‘journey’. Once you allow yourself to trust others, you’ll probably find them trusting you in return.