Wanting to share my graduate school acceptances and decisions with the people who have been most supportive of my continued educational goals, I opened my text messages and typed in my friend’s name. As our message history appeared, I scrolled up to see the last five unanswered messages all from me. Saddened at the re-realization that we haven’t spoken in over a year, I slid my phone back in my purse and continued walking.
Over the next few days, I thought on and off about texting this friend. Pro: Maybe something I said would be scintillating enough to provoke a response and rekindle our friendship. Con: Maybe she’s changed her phone number and sending this message would be a waste of time. Pro: If she is still at that number, at least she’ll know I still care about her. Con: Maybe she would think I was a creep for continuing attempting to reach out. Not knowing what to say or even if I should, it’s like being ghosted by a friend. However awkward, frustrating, and disappointing it is for a potential dating prospect to just disappear, it’s heartbreaking to be ghosted by someone with whom there has been a shared history and even love.
When I first graduated from college, I worked for a local insurance company. My soon-to-be friend, Molly, started in a temporary position just a week after me. At first, I was so concentrated on learning all of my tasks, I didn’t really take notice of this new hire until I was in a car accident just two weeks later. I came to work after the incident, and Molly could tell I was shaken by the event. She asked me if she could hold my hands. The comfort she gave me in such a vulnerable moment was what started our friendship. As we got to know each other more, Molly, though nearly double my age, became the only person at this company with whom I felt a soul connection. We were both proponents of the fair trade movement, social justice seekers, writers, conscious eaters, and passionate beings. Molly had been a sickly child, so college wasn’t something that she ever considered. But I admired her curiosity and ability to educate herself in unconventional ways.
My work friendship with Molly became an out-of-work one when she invited me to watch her partner perform in local theater and for a meal after. Though I was the only one from work who perhaps shared time with her in an unprofessional context, it wasn’t just me who felt an intrinsic connection to her. There was something about her smile, her gentleness, her enthusiasm for life that made everyone feel calmed. She was the kind of person anyone would want to be around. But temporary positions end, and despite the company lengthening her term several times, she eventually chose to leave to pursue a different job as well as her writing. We said a tearful goodbye at work but promised each other this wasn’t the end, merely a beginning of a new phase in our friendship and that we would keep in touch.
And for a while, it was. We went out to dinner. She came to my housewarming party when I moved to a new house in our city. We texted each other articles and videos and other antidotes until it became less frequent to the point it stopped.
The end of friendships has always been hard for me. Some of my early friendships ended because our interests changed over the years, or because it’s hard for children to keep in touch, or because a friendship was confined to a specific place – like camp or study abroad. But in this case, Molly and I are adults who continue to live in the same city and hold the same interests. I know that some people have a hard time keeping in touch when out of the context that brought them together, but being cut off completely makes me wonder if any of it was real or perhaps if it was only important to me.
There’s a part of me that knows the above statement isn’t true. Molly and I shared intimate family stories and writing ideas with each other. Molly helped me get through a tumultuous romantic relationship, encouraged me to continue growing and learning in multiple areas, and stayed at the company until another new employee arrived who became and continues to be a dear friend. All of that was real and important. Sometimes, people and relationships that are really meaningful can be temporary. It’s ironic that this is something I struggle with so much since that reality was one of the first lessons I learned in life.
Like my relationship with my first parents, my friendship with Molly is something that I had no agency in ending. I was left with just a bewildered feeling and unanswered questions. Perhaps it’s hard for me to know when to give up on friendships because my first important relationship cut short, with my first parents, is something I long to reclaim and continue. I hope to be able to find them someday and am driven by an optimistic spirit that what is gone will not always be. The fact that I lost critical people to me when I was young is one of the defining characteristics of my early life. I know the depth of sadness and grief that comes with loss. And when I find something or someone significant, I don’t want to lose it again.
My loyal heart doesn’t want to be abandoned, but I also don’t want to be guilty of abandoning someone else. I have to consciously tell myself, it’s not abandoning, if the other person has already left.
Adoption is a lifelong process that sometimes unexpectedly accompanies certain life transitions. When this happens, there is no way to un-invite adoption from tagging along as part of the experience. I simply have to accept it and act with as much agency as possible, now that I am an adult and the driver of my life. In the case of my dissolving friendship with Molly, I’ll send off one last message before I move away. If I am able to say good-bye, it’ll be a welcomed reunion and parting. If, like my last messages, there is no reply, I will have to take our relationship for what it was when it happened and find closure in knowing that I did my best to maintain our connection.
*Names have been changed.