That date that you long ago plugged into your iPhone calendar has nearly arrived! It’s time for group texts and Facebook messages to commence — the visit with your longtime friends has arrived.
Since special events of this sort don’t happen often, we set pretty high expectations. We put pressure on ourselves to recreate the many fun times we’ve shared in the past as we hope to form new, lasting memories.
Expectations vs. Reality
When visiting old friends, you expect joyful relaxation, to enjoy yourself and -- above all else -- you expect to feel comfortable. You remember all the great conversations and experiences from the past and hope to pick up right where you left off. Achieving this may work out to a certain extent, but in reality, it’s going to be difficult.
The time frame of your togetherness will be relatively short — you can’t possibly cram meaningful, organic conversations and experiences into a planned, limited trip. You’re all in different places now — emotionally and geographically — so no matter how much you aspire to feel comfortable, things are going to be different.
Becoming Friends vs. Visiting Friends
Think back to some of the best conversations and experiences you’ve shared with friends. They were probably created in a comfortable atmosphere with seemingly limitless time to spare. The nights out that were filled with fun, laughter and spontaneity formed memories that helped shape the friendship. This came easily, partially due to the comfortable environment in which the experiences transpired. It’s just not possible to expect this same feeling years later on a short visit.
Now, there is a set time for arrival and a set time for departure. This constraint forces friends to be more efficient with time together, and may create a feeling that seems… forced. While technology allows friends to stay in touch, the digital ambiance isn’t even closely comparable in comfortability as a tactile relationship in real life. When you are able to have a real-life reunion, it comes with the responsibility of hosting, planning a trip or internalizing the proper etiquette of a guest.
Maybe new variables have come into play: there are new significant others, job responsibilities, financial constraints and, obviously, hangovers are a way more debilitating problem than in years past.
Part of me believes that these developments and changes are natural and that maturing is positive, but when visiting friends and reminiscing about the “good old days,” these realities can be depressing. But regardless, life will still continue, and no matter the obstacles, it will always be a joyful occasion to see old friends — as long as expectations are kept in check.
How can we adjust to these inevitable new variables while maintaining the essence of what made us friends in the first place? How can we ensure a great visit?
Friends should be the people who know you the best, straight through to your core. Around these people, you can unabashedly be yourself and benefit mutually from each other’s company.
Seriously, we put a façade on a daily basis — at work, during class, ordering coffee at Starbucks, even when visiting relatives. In front of friends, it’s important that you feel comfortable enough to just be you. If that’s no longer possible given whatever new variables have entered the friendship throughout the years, maybe it’s time to move on.
After you get the proper protocol and etiquette out of the way, you’ll exchange general pleasantries. If at any point, these exchanges feel disingenuous, forced or overly polite, it’s a red flag. These aren’t people you’re accidentally running into during Thanksgiving break, they’re supposed to be your close friends!
The creation of new memories will be a definite happy product of the trip, but maybe the disparity between today’s memories and those of yesteryear will leave you dissatisfied. Again, the choice is yours regarding how to temper the expectations of your trip.
It’s important to understand that it is impossible to reach the unreasonable expectations we set for friend reunions. We don’t have the seemingly limitless time like we used to, and we don’t have the mutually comfortable environment that helps to put us at ease. The time we have now with our old friends is planned and constructed, so ease up on the expectations and pressure. Enjoy the time for exactly what it is; don’t overthink it. We choose our own friends, and we f*cking need them, so choose wisely.
Photo credit: American Reunion