The holidays are typically full of joy and reunions with loved ones – whether you’re going home, or have family & friends who have returned for the holiday season.
I am no exception. I have been so thrilled to see old friends that do not live in Vancouver anymore, East coast friends who were visiting, and people who I have not seen in months because between work, life, and other priorities, we simply haven’t had the time until now.
But this year was different. It felt different. Many things have changed over the last year – I’ve been out of school for year, I’ve got a ‘big girl job’, I’ve grown close to new people and apart from others, my own priorities and beliefs have shifted with age. So while all the joy and gratitude was still there, when I visited some of my old haunts and saw people I hadn’t connected with in ages – I couldn’t help but feel distant, out of place, and like I had outgrown what were once familiar comforts to me.
I visited one of my old work places that I had spent a good part of my university years in. My old manager was really happy to see me, but I was dismayed to find that everyone else who I had once worked with was no longer there. I have visited at least once a year since I left, and my past colleagues have always been there. My former group of coworkers had completely cycled through.
I visited another place that had been like a second home to me since I was a baby. I attend a Christmas party there every year, and each time I am really excited to reunite with people I haven’t seen all year. It always feels like a reunion with long-lost family.
But this time, I felt awkward, lost, and out of place. I saw many familiar yet distant faces, people I once knew well but no longer did. I saw teenagers, who I had seen grown up from when they were babies, now older, more confident, talking about what they wanted to pursue after high school. (Since when were you in high school?! What do you mean you’re not 6?)
Given that’s probably how other people feel about me growing up, but it still struck me so hard that night. It felt like I was trying to squeeze myself into a tiny box that no longer had room for me. It was a place that I had fully outgrown, and for the first time ever, it felt odd to be back.
Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a big event or realization. In the past, I’ve gotten together with former friends, and found that I didn’t have anything in common with them anymore. Proximity and convenience was the only reason why we were friends, and when you enter the real world and have limited spare time, you have to make an effort to keep in touch with those who matter to you. This automatically weeds out anyone who you aren’t truly close to.
Sometimes you find that you’ve outgrown places and/or people, and no longer feel a sense of belonging. But that’s okay. Things change, people change, and that’s just life. And there’s always a silver lining.
When doors close, others open in ways that you never thought imaginable. Where I no longer find a sense of belonging, I find community and unity in new places and new people. Where I drift apart from some, I find love and friendship in people I had never expected to, and unexpectedly maintain a strong connection with people who were only supposed to enter my life for a season.
So while I learned to let go of things I have outgrown, this year I also learned that friendship has no borders, and how incredibly lucky I am to know and meet friends who turn into family. It’s not about who you’ve known the longest – it’s about who comes into your life, makes an impact, and never leaves your support system.
Cheers to this past year, and I’m excited to see what 2017 has in store!