I miss my old friends
February 20, 2012 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Should I try to get back in touch with the high school friends I pushed away?

I was lucky enough to have a fantastic group of friends in high school. (All of us are girls, if it matters.) But senior year I went through a rough time and pulled away from pretty much everyone. I also got annoyingly political (I cringe to think of it now - it was a regrettable form of rebellion) and became alternately moralistic and aloof. By the end of high school, we weren't exactly on bad terms, but we weren't close anymore. I don't think they knew what to do with me.

I'm 28 now and a much different person. I haven't talked to any of these girls since our five-year high school reunion six years ago. Going to that reunion was a mistake - only a few were there, and we made pleasant if awkward small talk, but the friends I really wanted to see didn't show. None of them has ever contacted me.

I'm not on Facebook, but from browsing around I can tell that they all still live in NYC (I'm in Boston), talk to each other frequently, and get together a few times a year. This makes me wistful - I would really love to see them. But I'm still somewhat shy, and I'm worried too much time has passed. Should I resist the impulse and just focus on making new friends in my current city? Or should I give it a shot? And part two: if I ever do meet up with them, should I try to apologize for/explain my high school behavior? Or should I avoid dredging up the past?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Are you opposed to getting a Facebook account? It seems like that would be the logical first step.
posted by katypickle at 7:39 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Were you particularly close to one of the members? Maybe you could first contact the person you were closest to, maybe by writing a letter. That person could then communicate with the others for you. That might be easier than having to explain to a whole group.Then hopefully, you could meet up with everyone.
posted by bearette at 7:41 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it's worth a shot to reach out. I'm sure they won't think you are the exact same person that you were in high school and they might be curious about what your up to as well! Even if they don't respond, the chances you will accidentally run into these people are slim.

Write one of them a quick message. One you feel most comfortable with and try to feel them out. I'm sure they'll drop the line "hey, next time we meet I hope you can join!".

Don't apologize. High school is a weird time for everyone. Laugh it off if something does come up.
posted by melizabeth at 7:42 AM on February 20, 2012

I went through the other side of this, and just recently got in touch with my best friend from high school, who pushed our entire friend group away during our senior year (actually, I thought this was from her for a moment.)

She got in touch with me last year, and I'm really glad she did. I'm happy to see how well her life is going. We get together for coffee once in a while - in the end, we were best friends once, and there's still a fundamental affection we have for each other.

On the other hand, I get together with the rest of the friend group once a month, and we don't invite her - not out of any bad feelings, just because she's a friend from high school, whereas the rest of the friend group grew up with me.

I would get in touch with one or two of them. You've got nothing to lose, really - you can do that and make friends in Boston too.

I never brought up what she did during high school. We were young and all kind of jerks then. I'm sure I did horrible things too, and I would be mortified if anyone brought up some of my bad behavior. There's an unspoken agreement among adults to quietly forgive and forget this sort of thing.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:45 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with reaching out and giving it a shot, but it should be casual, and you should also be prepared not to get much of anything for your efforts. As with anyone, you can't really force them to be your friend, and 11 years is a pretty long time to go without significant contact, so there's a good chance they've changed a lot over the years as well.

It's probably unreasonable to expect you'll fall back into immediate intimacy again, but you also have no reason to believe they'll still be brooding over high school, so I wouldn't apologize for any of your past behavior unless it comes up for some reason.

If you know they're all on Facebook and interact through there, it's a pretty reasonable place to reach out: it's low-pressure and people frequently reconnect through there. But if you're that resistant to Facebook, getting in touch with whoever you were closest to, possibly with a simple "Hey, long time no see! Was randomly thinking about you the other day. How've you been?" message would be fine. However, even if this all works and you all become best friends again, you should definitely try to make friends in Boston as well.
posted by Diagonalize at 7:54 AM on February 20, 2012

It's just Facebook. Make an account, add a few current real life friends, then when you have your page established, in a week or so "Add friend" for each of your lost HS friends. No email or Facebbok mail, just the add friend. They'll each accept or decline. And there you are.

My own experience with people I was friends or friendly with but hadn't seen in any way for over 15 years: nearly all accepted, including a "friend" who the last time we were together, had a knock down drag out name calling fight. One particular person who I thought would instantly accept declined. And many people found me and did add friend on me. I have exchanged personal emails with nearly all, phone calls with many, get togethers with less but many, and not ruling out get togethers with the rest when possible.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:09 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

In our late teens, we had a friend who distanced himself from the group until it was obvious he no longer considered us his friend. The impression was that he had found better friends. It hurt.

About ten years later, I got a message from him on Facebook. The gist was "I'm sorry I was an asshole, I don't expect your forgiveness or a reply but I have been feeling guilty about this ever since and needed to tell you." I replied that it was water under the bridge, I was glad to hear from him, and thrilled to hear that things were going well for him, and sent him a friend request, which he accepted. I noticed over the next few days that the rest of the friends had added him as well. That was a few years ago and any bad blood of the past is long forgotten.

Get in touch with those friends. Maybe you won't get any sort of reply, but you might also be pleasantly surprised what the passage of time can do.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

No idea why the OP is not on Facebook, but it's worth noting that some people have jobs with "guidelines" that make being on Facebook more trouble than it's worth and some people have stalkers and that makes being on Facebook impossible.

Even without those reasons, I agree with the advice to reach out to one person first and then go from there.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would do it, and I second the advice to not get your hopes up and get out of it what you can out of it. I had a buddy who started dating a girl late junior year and sunk so deeply into that that he really pulled away from the rest of us for the rest of high school. It hurt, but you could understand it in a way. If he had called up at 28 and said hey guys anybody for a beer, I'd totally have gone and caught up and I know we'd have remembered the good times and the friendship and had a fun time. If he apologized we'd have been like aw man don't sweat it, that's just how it goes sometimes. Life goes however it goes and a lot has happened since then that would make whatever hurt or felt weird be a thing of the past. They already resolved it long ago and moved on. And by this time they too are aware of and probably regret the stupid behavioral/emotional things they did at that age. They'll have sympathy for anyone in that situation, which is everyone, and likely won't hold it against you. They know people grow and change a lot after high school and will likely see you as a different person now, someone who has had a chance to hit the reset button and leave things behind her. If they are the kind of catty, petty people who are basically still living in their high school bubble, maybe things might be different. I think most people mature though, so I say the odds are good.

Regarding the apology, you could try going without it and just let present day you tell them all they need to know about who you are now. That will show them that rebel you was temporary and is gone. If you do do it, I'd frame it more as regret. I'd say that I really regret pulling away from you guys back then - it was a weird phase and I wish I could do it over.

If they've stayed together as a group, it might not be easy or possible to wedge yourself back in there, because that hole filled in a long time ago, but I think you'd get some resolution and enjoyment from at least meeting up and catching up. And who knows. Depending on how easygoing people are, you could get your friends back in whatever capacity distance allows.
posted by Askr at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2012

Time wounds all heels. If you are sincerely sorry make an honest apology and see what happens. Best case: they accept and you move on; Worst Case: they can't accept and ,surprisingly, that's OK, too. Just make sure your overtures are sincere.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:27 AM on February 20, 2012

Eh, you could do it, but I wouldn't get my hopes up that it will come to much. You might have better odds if you lived where they do, but you live in another state. So it probably won't be much beyond token online friendship. I think I'd recommend that you focus on finding people where you actually live. Most people seem to like "reconnecting," even if it's token, especially if it involves Facebook.

I'm biased, though--I can't "reconnect" with old ex-friends for shit really, Facebook or not, and it's never really worked for me. Seems like we rapidly figure out we have nothing in common except the past, they have babies and husbands and I don't and thus they aren't interested in the conversation I can provide without those people to talk about and compare, and it fizzles.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2012

I've been on the other side of this. Things that happen in high school often stay in high school: I was delighted to hear from someone I'd spent so much of my childhood with. She'll never be my closest friend, and my group of friends plans things without her. But it was genuinely nice to hear from her in the 'this is my past' sort of way; just don't expect too much.

I'd join Facebook, friend a couple of them, say hi etc, but not over-engage. Then next time you're in NY, ask if they'd like to meet up over coffee (nothing more socially intense). I'll bet you they will. When you do meet up, go ahead and acknowledge or apologise, but don't make a big thing of it. Unless you were the high school bully, in which case, go ahead and grovel.

Don't meet more than 1-2 at a time - they've grown up together and will naturally have an ease that you'll lack, and you'll just feel left out again. Even if they're welcoming, if you're not part of the group, you'll notice it, and care.

Chances are, you'll never be close friends with them again. But there are only so many people one has shared one's childhood with, so it's good to stay in touch.

More importantly, however, move on. Unless you were a proper bully, they probably will remember your estrangement without much emotional attachment, as though it was something they read in a book. It probably means much more to you than it does to them - you lost an entire group of friends through your own actions, while they still had each other. So consider it a lesson learned, one of the stupid things one does in high school, and concentrate on making new friends in Boston: people with whom you can build a new shared history, without any baggage from the past.
posted by tavegyl at 9:18 AM on February 20, 2012

I'd say get back in touch, but don't expect a ton. I found some relief at least knowing that some folks I'd known in high school who I'd heard hit bad times after graduation are now doing okay. We occasionally exchange a note (like every six months or so), but that is it. I know some folks on Facebook deliberately obfuscate their name due to job/stalker concerns, such as first initial middle name, last name with the first vowel replaced by an apostrophe. Something like this may work for you as just a way to find and reconnect with folks.
posted by meinvt at 9:19 AM on February 20, 2012

This must be really common. My group of friends and I were on the other side of this in high school. I would love to see the missing friend again but would be too nervous to reach out myself. The moralizing was heavy and I got the impression that she really did hate us, think badly of us, not want to spend time with us. That changes for some people as they get older, but in other people actually solidifies and gets worse as they get older. So it's a little intimidating.

The nice thing about FB in a case like this is that it gives people a bit of a window into your life, how you interact with your friends now, how you've changed.
posted by cairdeas at 9:58 AM on February 20, 2012

I went through a rough patch at the end of high school and pushed most of my friends away. I've only kept in touch with a couple of them consistently over the 10-11 years since I graduated. In the last 2 years with Facebook getting really big, people from high school started getting in touch again after seeing me on mutual friends' walls.

If there's some reason you can't/won't be on Facebook, I agree with others that you should start out with whomever you were most close in high school and go from there.
posted by asciident at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2012

As someone who did something similiar -- actually, did something similar a couple times in his life -- I'd say this is exactly what Facebook is for. In fact, it might be the only thing it is definitely good for. Low stakes putting yourself out there and a way to say hello and put yourself back on people's radar -- and then you go from there, usually without having to re-open old wounds and re-fight old battles.

Given my behavior, the first couple of times people tried to add me as a friend request, I was pretty sure they were accidentally hitting the button. I came to realize that, though I may have been a asshole/basketcase/criminal/princess, people tend to look over a lot of the mistakes of growing up once they've, you know, actually grown up.

Good luck.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:01 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I reconnected with one group of girls I sort of abandoneda couple of years ago, and the only negative part was seeing how much I'd missed.
I have not reconnected with the other group of girls that I was close to, because I was so deeply hurt by one of them and I still carry that pain today. When I've thought about retrying in touch with them, I imagine being rejected all over again by the one, and that the others wouldn't talk to me because of that rift, even now, 20 years later.
and then I remember that I'm probably not even a blip on these peoples radar and how stupid I feel for even thinking about it this much and I log out of facebook and eat some ice cream.
issues? Yes please, have some!
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:27 PM on February 20, 2012

get on FB. i really feel like it has been the best tool ever for reconnecting with people from the past. you can be as engaged as you want (or not). i have actually become better friends with people i was only friendly with when we were in h.s, chatting occasionally, or meeting up whenever we happen to be in the same town. it's been a blast.
posted by violetk at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2012

There's no reason to get back in touch with them. You miss them as they were 11 years ago. Just like you have changed, they have changed (hopefully). At best (in all probablility)you have some awkward interaction, at worse they still dislike you. Look at your reunion; nothing clicked, and most of your old friends weren't there. That tells you how much they were interested in reliving high school.

If you want to make friends, find people you actually have something in common with, not people who hung with for 3 years when you couldn't drink or vote.
posted by spaltavian at 1:06 PM on February 20, 2012

Oh, I think everyone's high school version of themselves makes them cringe later in life.

I just re-connected with a good HS friend for the first time on FB after 15 years. It has been great to catch up It's nice to have a connection back to someone who has known me for that long. So, yes, you have nothing to lose by contacting old friends.
posted by sugarbomb at 1:20 PM on February 20, 2012

I wouldn't bother. If your reunion was a bummer, I think the reality of what a reunion would look like is staring you in the face. Pointless, let-down, not worth the effort. Why not make some new friends?
posted by devymetal at 3:08 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was in a slightly similar situation to you at that age - no politics, but a bad breakup with someone else who was part of the group (people who had attended the same school together before the institution we all attended) and me becoming withdrawn as a new girlfriend got involved. I was very possibly extremely annoying company, but I stopped being invited along to things and generally didn't spend much time around people.

I went off to university, and halfway through my second-year I was home and decided to phone a few people to see what was going on as they were all on a break. The conversation went like this:

'Hi! I heard you're all coming to the pub tonight - is it the usual place? Mind if I come along?'
'[Pause] Well, it's a free pub...'

I decided they could live without my friendship. I have a small number of close friends, even when we don't see each other for a while, and I'd rather have that than have to work to reconnect with people who aren;t particularly interested in seeing me and finding out what I'm up to. I just don't need the anxiety and bad feeling attached to that, y'know?
posted by mippy at 3:54 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just reconnect with people, preferably through a low-key low-expectation social media such as Facebook. It's sort of what it's for.

I had a college group most of whom I haven't seen in 25 years. I sought out a half-dozen of them, all accepted, but I expected these to. Since then I've had just as many friend me, and I've politely accepted regardless of how I felt about them. The one thing I haven't done is contact a couple of women that, well, there was some awkwardness with, but even there two exes are now FB friends with me and it's OK. Some of them aren't on FB much at all, but I've really enjoyed my FB interactions with a couple of them who are very active.

There's basically not much to lose here. Keep it drama free, just some polite "good to see you again" vibes, no need to go all sturm und drang about drifting away. It's just life.
posted by dhartung at 4:48 AM on February 21, 2012

"So... wanna go for a beer?"

If it turns out bad, you'll know you aren't missing anything.
posted by pracowity at 6:53 AM on February 21, 2012

'They' are individuals. Get in touch with 1 or 2 people you really want to reconnect with. I'm more than a few years out of college, and facebook has made reconnecting easy. Those people who are still interesting to me, I'm connecting with outside of fb.
posted by theora55 at 6:32 PM on February 21, 2012

« Older JavaScript precedence for dummies   |   When MS Paint won't cut it... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.