I've been thinking about friendship quite a bit lately, as I settle more into my new home and my new job and continue to make new acquaintances. Building community proceeds slowly and hinges as much on serendipity as intention--the few non-work friends I have in M- are people I met either at the Farmers' Market or volunteering for a political campaign this fall.
But more I've been thinking of friends from other stages in my life, those thoughtful men and women who joined me for part of my journey, whether through the awkward days of high school, the halcyon days of undergrad, the fleeting years of my Master's program, and the intense days of my doctoral program, not to mention the in-between post-grad years before I landed this tenure-track position. Living the rather itinerant decade or two of life that higher education and life in academe requires, I've becoming increasingly separated from these friends, not only geographically but also in life stages. We email, facebook, or chat on the phone occasionally, but it's hard to bridge the distances between our lives when faced with so many competing demands and new challenges.
In the idealistic world in my mind, we would move along together at a similar pace. But, priorities shift, new locales beckon, unforeseen opportunities and new relationships arise, setting us on an altogether different course than our dear friends. And the beauty of it is that we learn and grow from one another, even as our paths diverge. I think it was Anne Shirley, the plucky heroine of my childhood favorite Anne of Green Gables series, who famously declared that true friends were together in spirit, a sentiment that seems fitting and comforting.