I don’t know what it is about the friendships you build in high school and college, but these are often the ones that last forever and retain a depth and richness that friendships developed later in life often lack. Even though I only see my high school and college friends once every year or few years, I still value some of those friendships as highly as my day-to-day friendships back home. Perhaps it’s because in high school and college, your friends are more like family, and you do most everything together. You are not distracted by family, responsibility and full-time work. There is more time to devote to each other and joint activities. Friendships developed later in life may not be as strong simply because they form a smaller part of your life. I would be interested in reading some academic journal articles about it – anecdotally, I just know my friendships in Oz are rather shallow, meet-for-drinks friendships versus the rich and deep friendships I share with old friends from times past.
Jenny and I met 20 years ago – thrown together as roommates in a dorm at Colorado State. We got along well and have remained friends ever since. Even though we don’t email all that much between visits, we can always talk about our hopes and dreams, and frustrations and fears, without any sense of judgement. Jen leads an amazing life and has accomplished spectacular things – she meets every criteria of society’s definition of success. But she is still humble, gullible, down-to-earth and always up for an adventure.
On Thursday, Jen takes the day off work and our choice of adventure is hiking Signal Mountain. We’ve climbed it together a couple times before – once when we worked at Pingree Park when the peaks were fogged in, and once in 2003 or 2004 from the Glen Haven side when we got caught in a thunderstorm. Today, the weather is absolutely brilliant. It could not be better. It is completely clear and warm with only a light breeze.
We spend time on top admiring all of the deep golden aspen on the hillsides, and identifying distant peaks we’ve climbed and trails we’ve hiked. We look for different landmarks and at the outline of the High Park fire area. It’s a great day. It’s not too often you can head above 11,000 feet and not have to worry about afternoon storms.
Over the next couple days, I hit all of my favourite spots in town and check out all of the old ride routes. Jen takes me to a party where I get to indulge in Indian food. The following day we get Thai. After so much plain American food for four months, it is an absolute treat! Jen’s boyfriend comes up and we do the easy trail to Arthur’s Rock at Lory State Park. It brings back so many good times and memories squashed into such a short time in the 1990s. Good stuff.
Even though I enjoy my time in Fort Collins, I also feel like I’m in the way and should have just stayed Wednesday and Thursday. I feel like I’m intruding on Jen’s life. I feel like the space available for an old friend who is not really a part of her present is taking up too much of her time and attention. I also only get to see my friend Wayne for a couple hours one evening. Pursuit of his hobbies, which precluded him from seeing me in Walden, means he is too busy to spend any more time with me while I’m in town. Living overseas means I’m acutely aware of how little time I have with my loved ones; I never know when I might see someone again. So I feel a bit sad that I feel like I’m just in the way. When I take off for Estes Park on Sunday morning super-early, I wish that I’d just taken off on Friday. It reminds me why I most often prefer to be alone – there is less disappointment that way, I never end up hurt, and I don’t get in anyone’s way. I guess I take away from it that I need to put more energy into building new friendships that aren’t of the ‘meet for coffee’ variety back home and not demand so much attention from people who are not a very big part of my life anymore. Or maybe someday I’ll just give up on it completely and end up the crazy old hermit alone in a cabin in the woods!