Call Your Friend

Friendships can be hard to maintain. My thirty-three years on the planet have imparted a limited, yet I don’t think insignificant, view on how friendships change. What I know for sure is that, like any relationship, they require upkeep. Social media provides a shortcut to keeping tabs on friends, but it also boils down what I guarantee is a complex life into sporadic snapshots. And not even honest snapshots, but rather only those that are suitable for everyone. Rarely do “friends” post soul-crushing fights with a spouse or when that asshole at work got the promotion instead or how scary it is to see a parent's declining health.

I understand the millennial swamp. That is, growing into actual adulthood while trying to make money and find a mate and search the internet, music, or Netflix for the meaning of life. In that time after the rush of college, the years seem to be endless and fleeting in a way the feels new. It becomes easy to wave at that relationship in the corner of your memory and go: I’ll revisit you one day

But what day?

You may be expecting this to be a peice about how I pushed everything to “one day” and that day never came. Or the person on the receiving end of that prophesy died before I called, but it’s not. This article is about how just picking up the damn phone felt and how it might make you feel too. 

Katie and I attended college together at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. The uniquely random spectacle of the universe astounds on a college campus. The building and room in which I’d sleep, as well as the roommate I’d share recycled air with, were all selected arbitrarily for me. Did the universe put Katie in my path, because it knew I needed a friend like her? Her, this adorable strawberry blonde girl, with the sweetest smile and an even sweeter disposition, who cared about people, the planet and Senator John Edwards' 2008 Presidential campaign. She was (still is) smart, unexpectedly passion and Minnesota nice. 

Katie and I held two spots in a group of girls, about a dozen strong. Most of us grew up in Wisconsin and those who didn’t were still from the Midwest: Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa. We were all so much the same, but thought, in our naiveté, that we were so different. Our differences were so slight that if I met any of them today I’d marvel at our sameness. Just four years after meeting, each relationship was its own little compact entity, none exactly the way we’d imagined. 

Specifically for Katie and I, we had long talks during the two years we lived just doors away from one another. We talked about important shit: religion, politics, boys, high school. Then, junior year, we moved off campus, but not together. I don't remember who she lived with, honestly. That's a testament to how much I didn't see her. I can't recall going to her apartment. Was she an RA? I should ask her.            

Anyway, we didn't spend much time together. I remember she came to a Halloween party we had, dressed as a tree. Her long, wavy hair looked beautiful tangled up in fake leaves. I was a unicorn. That wouldn’t be the last time I felt like the mystical creature. 

Senior year, I have no memories of spending time with her. By that time, Jake, my ex-boyfriend from high school, had moved to La Crosse and I was absorbed with him. He had an efficiency downtown, easy walking to the bars and I was in love, with the experience of pretending to be adults, and him.

Immediately after graduation, I moved to Phoenix. A year later, I returned to the Midwest for my wedding to Jake. Katie attended. Soon after, she moved too, to D.C. We did not talk, text, or email for years. A quick like on a Facebook post, maybe even a couple of messages there, but nothing serious, nothing impactful. Then, two years ago, my co-worker and I planned a weekend in D.C. I messaged Katie to see if she still lived there; she did. She offered to have us stay with her; we agreed. 

And so, just like that, eight years of growing apart slammed together. She gave me and my co-worker her bedroom in her beautiful, historic Capitol Hill home and slept on the couch. She works in politics; she's good at it. For two days, we talked like we did in college, about different things, but in the familiar way it feels almost impossible to have with new friends. When we said our goodbyes we said the things that everyone always says, "Let's not let it take eight more years to do this again!" Or "Let's try to talk at least a couple of times a year!" 

But we didn't. She reached out. I didn’t reply, because I had some millennial swamp thing to prioritize over her in that moment and pushed her back into my memory’s corner. But, then, I had one of those life events that makes people reach out, like marriage or cancer. In my case, I quit a lucrative executive position to write full-time. She called and I called back. We talked for over an hour about the things that matter in life. It was awesome. 

More than the topics or the words we spoke, the magic happened in the feeling. Knowing her for fifteen years, I get to travel along life with her. That’s a small, but important word, I get to … I am privileged to do this. She's granted me access to watch my smart, beautiful friend navigate her career, boys (I hope she can find a man among them) and life. That's a blessing and I'm grateful for it. 

So, my message is fairly simple, connectedness can be this thing, without real parameters or substance that often eludes us. Especially as we see high-profile humans struggle with mental disease or just plain loneliness, I’d encourage everyone to reach out to an old friend and keep reaching. Don’t wait for a specific time. Instead of waving to that person in the corner, just call him or her. You’d be surprised how excited people are to actually hear your voice. And you’d be surprised how happy it can make you to just reflect on the fact you have someone to call to make feel special. 

I’d love to hear how it goes.

 

- Andrea Lechner-Becker

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Andrea Lechner-Becker is a lot like her name, a little awkward and kinda funny. On a perfect day, she sits at a bar ingesting craft beers and talking to strangers. She believes everyone has a story to tell and deeply desires to tell as many of them as possible. She left a successful career as a marketing executive to commit full-time to storytelling.