Are old friendships really that much richer than new ones?
August 14, 2012 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Is it really so bad that I don't have friends from high school anymore?

I only have one close friend left from high school. Occasionally I see others at holidays, but I only onsider one high school friend to still be a close friend a decade-ish after high school. I absolutely yearn to have a tight-knit group of girlfriends from my childhood, and I can't get over the fact that I don't. I think about this daily and it makes me so sad, even though I have great friends I've made in college and afterwards. My life is going fine in general. I make new friends easily. But I can't stop thinking about this one type of friendship I will never have.

Do most people you know seem to still have friends from childhood? Do you think there is a real difference in the quality of childhood friendships versus those formed in adulthood? I know this seems like a ridiculous complaint, but it's really important to me. If you have a group of close childhood friends: How do your newer friends compare? If you don't: Are you OK with this?

Many thanks-----
posted by sunrisecoffee to Human Relations (56 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I guess the real question is why you think it's so important to have close friends from childhood. Childhood friends are certainly glorified in movies and TV shows, but I think it's rare for most people to have stable friendships that last their entire lives.

Is this desire a proxy for something else? For example, is it that you've moved around a lot in your 20s and don't feel emotionally connected to a single place? Then maybe think about ways to be more connected to the place where you live now.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:35 PM on August 14, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have one friend from back during high school, although we didn't go to the same school at the time.

You definitely bond in a different way with people you meet in your adolescence, before you learn not to over-share. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a better or more profound kind of friendship. Often you grow apart later as your lives diverge, and there's nothing wrong or weird about that.

Are you comparing your experience to a movie or TV show, or to the experience of someone else you know? Everyone has different kinds of friend experiences, and I think so long as you have good friends you're not missing out.
posted by zadcat at 8:37 PM on August 14, 2012

No! You're totally fine. You're all different people and in different lives now. It's why there's reunions, I think: otherwise we wouldn't need them, right? Give everyone--and yourself--a little time to go have something to talk about at the reunion. Isn't the biggest predictor of friendship longevity geographical proximity? (plus taste tribe, of course.) Meanwhile, keep in ambient-awareness-level on Facebook or whatever, but please, don't worry about this so much! Totally normal. I have grade school and high school besties that have reconnected after [REDACTED] decades and it's so cool now because states and states and [REDACTED] years apart, we're all like, "A-HA! yeah that's why I knew you were cool when you were seven!"
posted by mimi at 8:43 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thinking about my group of friends, most of whom are from my college or graduate school years, it seems most of them have 1-2 friends from childhood they are still close to, childhood including the high school years. This holds true for me, too, though the friendships I've formed as a young woman and adult are far more meaningful than the one childhood friendship I have left.

For my friends, in their late 20s/early 30s, friendships from college and beyond seem to have more staying power. Your lives are likely to be similar and you are more likely to have similar interests. For the people I do know who are still friends with many people from childhood, the friendships are often rekindled due to circumstance or convenience, like returning to your hometown after college, rather than having remained close friends for years.

Cherish the friends you have. If you want close friendships, those take work! You can make friends as an adult that are based on deep connections.
posted by peacrow at 8:46 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a few friends from my past I keep in light touch with, but none I have close, ongoing relationships with. Does that bother me? Not really. I mean, when I'm feeling in the dumps about how many friends I have total, I might wish I was still friends with people from my past, but that's general friend malaise, not a specific desire to be friends with people from my past.

And for those around me who do have close friends from the past, I wouldn't say those friendships are deep so much as they are long. In most cases, nostalgia seems like the only thing those people have keeping them together. Chances are, if they met today as the people they are now, few of them even would be friends, because they wouldn't actually like each other or have much in common.

I think there are lifelong friendships that grow and change and stay strong, but I think they're a lot rarer on the ground than they are in Lifetime movies.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:55 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have one friend from high school, and our relationship has evolved a lot over the past few years, to the point where when we see each other/talk, we can easily pick up where we left off, but it doesn't happen all that much anymore.

I do see other classmates from high school interacting a lot on Facebook, and I guess I do get a little pang that I don't have that kind of camaraderie. But then I remember that most of those people didn't leave the state or even the general area, so it's different.

My closest friendships are from the early college years (my "core friend group" mostly lived in my dorm freshman year) and my first serious job. Those are the friendships that have gone the distance.
posted by charmcityblues at 8:56 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have grown apart from all of them and have found that I have little in common with them when we do catch up.

There are people I know with friends from school and I've always found those friendships to be very toxic, from an outsiders perspective. I think the thing that disturbs me most is how people treat each other the same way they did back at school - I found that recently, that my friend from school just reverted right back to the old behaviour and it was very disconcerting.

So, I personally don't place a lot of emphasis on it. Live in the now + look to the future.
posted by heyjude at 8:57 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have maybe two friends left from high school and I'm not really super-close to either of them.
My family lives in small- ish town and lots of people still hang out with their high school crowd. They like it. I find that 'glory days' scene stifling and the same old conversations boring. Each of us decides what friendships are best for us but I can't imagine that a pal is going to make you happier simply because you've known her longer. The friend with which you have the most in common, the ones you can have a meaningful talk with, those are the keepers, even if you've only just met them.
posted by toastedbeagle at 8:57 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 27. I have 0 friends from high school - a few of them I'm friendly with, as in when I go back home for Christmas I will chat with them at the family friends' parties, but I don't even bother to make plans.

For me, at least, this has been the case since almost right after I moved away to university at 18. I like the friends I've made since high school much better - I could give you reasons, but realistically it's that I didn't like myself in h.s., I generally do afterwards.

I agree with roll truck roll - why are you worried about having friends from a specific point in your life?
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:57 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I worried about the same thing for years, and then the death of a classmate reunited many of my friends from school for his memorial.

We've held annual-ish get-togethers since then, and they are really fun.

My point being: that which is lost can be found again.
posted by trinity8-director at 8:58 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have close friends from high school. The wife has close friends from before kindergarten. We are in our mid 30s. Our oldest friendships are the most complicated. Our most recent friendships are less so. Both are valuable.

Enjoy the life you have.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:05 PM on August 14, 2012

I met my best friend in high school. My other childhood/high school friends? Well, some of them update a lot on Facebook, but that doesn't count. For all intents and purposes we've drifted apart.

In truth, I hear a lot more about the opposite stereotype: someone heading off to college, meeting new people, and growing up, and ten years later coming back to their hometown and deciding that all their high school friends are lame and pedestrian.

College and early adulthood are so transformative, and most people are very different at 25 than they were at 18. It's pretty natural for friendships grown in the small, confined environment of high school not to survive in the wild.

And keep in mind that the main catalyst in high school friendships is proximity. Proximity, perceived social status, and then shared interests. Your parents all just happen to live in the same area, and you're in the same building together for six hours a day - you don't have all the friend options in the world. After high school, you generally have some choice in your circumstances: the college you attend, your major, your line of work, where you live. It's easier to find good friend candidates when you're older (though, at the same time, it's harder to turn those candidates into friends).

I understand your yearning, though. I often wish I'd made stronger friendships in college. I'm still distant friends with several people and I love them, but I always felt like an outsider and never developed that iron bond so many of them forged. But, well, nothing I can do to change the past. All I can do is be kind to, and interested in, the people surrounding me now, and some of those people may become new best friends.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:10 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband has friends from HS and I do not. There are upsides to not, I've discovered: you are less tied to old mistakes and old obligations. Sometimes his old friendships are painful as well as rewarding. I was a very different person in HS than in college. Those friendships suit who I really am.
posted by emjaybee at 9:11 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think it's important to have friends who feel solidly a part of your life, but i don't think they need to be from childhood.

In the middle of university, i made a conscious decision to not keep in touch with my high school friends. (I came from a very socially hierarchical school - think Heathers or Mean Girls - and realised in university that i was finally experiencing real friendships.) Now, i'm in my mid-30s and i have two groups of close knit friends - one group from university, who i've known since 1995, and another group i've been close with for the last 7 or 8 years. I feel pretty confident that those friends are true long term friends, and it doesn't matter at all that they didn't know me when i was younger.

Close friends are important, but when those close friendships started isn't.
posted by Kololo at 9:11 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The richness of a friendship has little to do with its length. You find people with whom you resonate (seemingly) at random.

My best friends from high school all died in their 20s or 30s. I miss them, yes, but there is no telling whether we'd have aged peaceably together or grown apart during the long interval since. My close-friend-family has grown over the last five or six years and they are closer to me than any of my high school friends ever were.
posted by jet_silver at 9:15 PM on August 14, 2012

I have two friends from high school, and one friend from cub scouts. However, we really bonded when we enrolled in the same undergraduate program at university.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:16 PM on August 14, 2012

I'm 13 years out of high school and don't have any close friends from back then. I have friends I'm in occasional touch with (wedding invites, lunch if we're in town at the same time, shared a ride to the reunion), and friends via facebook, but none that I talk to on a day to day basis or who know the intimate details of my life right now.
posted by Sara C. at 9:20 PM on August 14, 2012

I have childhood friends (well, middle school), college friends, and post-college friends, and I'd be hard pressed to say which ones I'm closer to. Probably the ones I have the most contact with - the people who live near me who I see regularly, and the two old friends who I call often and who call me often just to chat and catch up. There really isn't much that's special about having old high school friends. I mean, sure, you have more hilarious horrible stories to tell about each other and your mutual acquaintances, but to some extent that gives you a veneer to not need to find out about what's going on now.

Spending a lot of time together and making great stories together is really wonderful, and for a lot of people they stop making time to do that when they get out of school (high school or college). But it's the long road trips and late nights hanging out that cause that bond, not being 16 or 18 or 21.
posted by Lady Li at 9:22 PM on August 14, 2012

I have 1.5 friends from my high school years (I say .5 because she's the sort that will vanish for 3-4 years then pop up on a new email to say hello then vanish again) and a few acquaintances floating around out in the ether that I have shaky contact info on.

In my case, it's largely a combination of intentional--the last day I walked out the door was the last day I was ever on campus, whereas a lot of the kids I graduated with continued to hover around the school for a number of years--and the usual pre-social media drifting apart. And, ironically, my post-graduation summer girlfriend breaking up with me and claiming most of our group of friends while I went to college.

But on thinking about it, there's actually a pretty solid demarcation between the handful of people I managed to stay in touch with pre-Facebook and the mass of people I've stayed friends with since joining Facebook.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:30 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Almost a decade out, I only have one close friend from high school -- and even though we don't stay in touch all that great because we live an hour apart, I recently went to her bachelorette party and wedding. I wasn't all that close to a lot of people in high school because they weren't the right people for me to click with, so it doesn't concern me at all that I don't have a large circle of girls I grew up with. I think that's rather an unrealistic ideal rather than the norm -- sure, there are people here and there like that, but in reality you move away for college, and again after college, and you just don't spend all that much time with them. The ones I see who are still really tight tend to be the ones who haven't moved on and haven't made much of their lives (sure, there are exceptions to this, but I'm talking about the majority). I look at the fact that I'm still young, and I'm still meeting awesome people who I have the opportunity to get close to. And I know of the people I'm friends with now, some will stay in my life and some will drift out... and that's okay, because that's what happens.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:37 PM on August 14, 2012

You can't really help what friendships last and what ones don't. It's nice to have friends from a long time ago, but if they've moved on to other interests, then what can you do? Not all friendships last despite changes in your lives.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:48 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think geographical distance really matters when it comes to whether or not people are still friends with individuals from their childhood. From my what I know, individuals that are in their 20s or older and have lived in the same city since their childhood or adolescence have a core group of people that they hang out with. This core group tends to be from high school with a few additional people added into the mix like SO's. This is largely attributed to seeing the same people regularly at the same time and place during high school.
I am not one of those people that has a core group of friends from high school. I moved when I was 17 to attend a university outside of my hometown. I am now 21 and don't have what I would consider close relationships with any of these people from my adolescence. This is primarily because they don't know a lot of stuff that's going on in my life due to the geographical distance. In addition to that, we just don't keep in touch with each other and when we do, our conversations lack substance. I find it difficult to talk about deep, meaningful things when I rarely see someone.

My newer relationships are much more meaningful to me than my past relationships because they are part of my regular, present life. These individuals also know a lot about me (my personality and my background) which I was too scared to share during my childhood and adolescence.

But, it doesn't mean that the people from my past are any less important, it's just that they don't play much of a role in my life and I don't play a role in theirs. We have grown apart from each other, but at the same time, I feel like we can touch base once a month or once every several months just to see what the other's up to. Although the conversations with these people just don't compare to the ones that I have with the current people in my life.
posted by livinglearning at 9:49 PM on August 14, 2012

I have thought about this with regard to college. I am around the same age as you, and I actually do have one of those close-knit groups of high school. But, I made very few friends in college and when people discuss how totally awesome their college experience was I frequently feel left out. Most of my friends are the old high school group, or people I met post-college through work, mutual friends and other activities.

Sometimes I think people will think I'm immature or something when they hear about my stereotypical old gang, like we're sitting around rehashing glory days or something. But you know what? We hardly ever talk about high school. We've all grown up, and we're not very much interested in it. We've remained close because we enjoy each others' company and have a lot in common beyond old times. I don't think any of that group holds high school in any particular regard, except as the time when most of us happened to meet each other.

Anyway, there's nothing wrong with you. People have different friend-making patterns. When I made few new friends in college, I thought I had blown my chance at meeting new people, then I met a slew of them in my 20s. I wouldn't worry too much about it. The important thing is that you have friends, and that you like them and trust them. It doesn't matter when you met.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:05 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do most people you know seem to still have friends from childhood?
posted by sunrisecoffee

This is not your experience, however just as a bit of an alternate perspective - a HUGE population of military children have almost no long term friendships from childhood. Those of us who bounced from base to base (and I'm guessing we're in the multi-millions in number) prior to the internet age, rarely if ever kept contact with each other. Its a weird, but not damaging experience. Its ok to just have new-ish friends.

I've only got a handful of friends from my college years that I still keep in touch with, aside from relatives of the same age. Don't let this be a crisis for you. Its no big deal.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:30 PM on August 14, 2012

Currently my closest friends are all from High School and earlier (elementary school friends ftw!). I say currently because when I was away for university and living in a different country I barely kept in touch with any of them and had close friends in the places I was living. Now that I'm back in my hometown we're close again and I barely keep in touch with my friends from uni and abroad. Even with the group I hang out with now, I wasn't all that close with a couple of them in High School. I do miss my other friends but I figure I'll catch up with them when I see them.

One thing that is kind of neat is that our group is starting to have kids now but we still have memories of each other from when we were kids. But even this isn't some amazing next level of friendship or anything like that and we're all much more interested in when we're going to meet up next than what we did 15-20 years ago.

My wife also has a group of friends from Junior High that she is really close with. Because she's now moved to Canada she doesn't see them very often and has made some really close friends here. But she definitely does a better job of keeping in touch with them than I do with my absent friends.

IMO the important thing is to have good friends. It doesn't matter if you've known them for 20 years or 20 days.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:46 PM on August 14, 2012

I really depends. You're 28+/-5 years old.

-Are you still in your home town?
-Did you go away to college?
-Did your highschool friends go away to college?
-Did your highschool friends/you leave the hometown/state/country?

Friendships are organic, you need to cultivate them or they wither.

Another question you might be avoiding is whether you "yearn for highschool friends" whom you might be able to disclose to entirely and be completely yourself because... hey, they're still friends and you've known them since you were a kid versus your "new friends" who like you because of who you are now and how you act now, but you'd never let the, know how you really feel?
posted by porpoise at 10:54 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

seven of us, all friends since 4th grade or earlier. Now we are, ahem, 30+ years out of hs and still see or talk with each other regularly. It just worked out that way. I would not sweat it one bit, although I do regret not keeping in better touch with some college friends. I am only in regular contact with 3 of them.

To me, maybe because I am a guy, I only care that I have some friends I know I can rely on regardless of the situation, I have some friends who know they can do the same, and I like them. I do not care so much about how long I have known them or why I know them, only that I know, trust and love them.
posted by AugustWest at 10:55 PM on August 14, 2012

My short answer to your first question is No.

I have friends from when I was in college but not so much from high school, at least as far as being in constant contact. While in high school, I moved from one small town to a somewhat larger town. where it seemed to me I, as a stranger, was treated so much better there than I was in the place where everyone knew you and had always known you. It was a liberating experience, but, on the other hand, I was not in the second town for very long.

But, on the other hand, if you go by Facebook, where I was born, I am remembered. And that is something which seems to matter more as you get older.

Those of us who bounced from base to base (and I'm guessing we're in the multi-millions in number) prior to the internet age, rarely if ever kept contact with each other. Its a weird, but not damaging experience.

I have a friend with such a childhood. She is totally at ease talking to strangers, a trait I share with her. When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose, as the song goes.

But when you are older, you don't make friends like you do in your teens and twenties. The amount of time you can spend with other people is at its lifetime peak, that is, the time you can spend with people mostly your age. You can hang out with each other unemcumbered with children always able to stay up a whole night just talking. Friendship happens by accident more than design.

You can make friends, I have found, but it is not easy, involves a lot of work and, even more, a lot of accumulated time, and you often find yourself putting up with stuff you would never take from people in general. Putting up with it repeatedly. But that's part of the package in any relationship. People are what they are. Human beings. Every pot comes with a crack somewhere.

And I will say this, too, of the people I know personally, the ones who have the most friends are people who are out attempting to do the right thing. One of my closest friends goes to grade school class reunions. Another stays in touch with people she knew nearly as long. The first teaches autistic children. The second is very active in local Democratic party circles. Both volunteer for things above and beyond their day jobs. If friendship happens more by accident, well, accidents will happen the more you are out in the world.
posted by y2karl at 11:28 PM on August 14, 2012

I am 40 years out of high school. I have kept in touch sporadically with a small group of friends as I chose to move away from the small town/rural area I grew up in and live around the world.
In the last few years I have reopened friendships with 3 people who were my BFF in adolescence and it has been great,but it would probably not be as great if we had kept tightly connected all of those years. Our life choices would have restricted how we felt about each other, but now we are old enough to not really care about that. It's like we get to see each other again at very transformative parts of our lives.

The friends I made in college and in all of those places I lived are important to me,too. And the friends I have made in the last few years are, also. I don't judge my friendships by length, but by depth. For all I know my very best friend may be someone I meet walking my dog tomorrow.

Be open to the new and old...
posted by Isadorady at 1:13 AM on August 15, 2012

Just to be really funny....!

One of my best friends now in LA (I'm female, he's a guy) I was super close with upon meeting (like old friends who had just met) for 3 whole years before we discovered I knew, and was friends with, his first cousin back where I grew up.

It threw our "instant connection" into a whole new light for me!

I had very much lost touch with this person's cousin many years earlier, but my friend? Likely I will be in touch with him for life. I'm kinda "in" with his entire family as a result and have hung out with all of them over the years as they visit LA, etc.

You never know about connections.

I would never have guessed that this cousin who was a frequent guest in my home, and someone I vacationed with often, but only came into my life via my ex husband, would lead me to one of my bestest and lifelong friends. C'mon! What are the odds??

Life is a journey. You never know when the road will "double back."

This is a feature, not a bug.

Enjoy Life.
posted by jbenben at 3:18 AM on August 15, 2012

I have a big (think 20 odd) core group of friends at home that go all the way back to elementary school. We grew up together, we're growing old together. I've been continents apart from most of them the past few years, but I see them every single time I'm back. Though we all have other friends and very different lives, it's a very tight knit group and honestly it's amazing. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

That said, I'm an aberration from most people I know outside of my school crowd, most of whom didn't keep in touch with high school friends. I've met a lot of amazing folks since school, and those friendships are no less valuable for being more recent. I agree with Isadorady - measure by depth, not length.

In sum, not a big deal if you don't have friends who go way back. Sure, it's nice, but it's not essential. I like to think about newer friends as people who will be old friends in time :)
posted by 9000condiments at 3:44 AM on August 15, 2012

This is funny timing because this coming weekend, for the first time in probably six years, I'm going to be going back to my home town, and a big part of me hopes I don't run in to my old high school friends because I know it will be awkward because our lives and ended up so different and we will have nothing in common and nothing to talk about.


I am friends with zero people I went to high school with, and it isn't like I live on the other side of the country or something. I live only an hour and a half from the town where I grew up. A while back I questioned whether it was weird that I wasn't friends with people from highschool (or really anyone from my home town). I, like a lot of people, have them as "friends" on facebook but I never contact them and they never contact me. I do, however, see the odd update from them on my news feed and I see that a lot/most of them are still friends with the people they hung out with in High School.

Then I remembered about the town I grew up in. It is a small farming town. Lots of pick up trucks and people wearing denim and plaid, lots of teenage pregnancies and people who love country music. Most of the people in my school spent their weekends hunting, underage drinking, or going 4-wheeling. Most aspects of the town was a pretty huge stereotype. I, however, liked reading, musicals and jazz, I liked to travel and did really well in school. I wasn't quiet, I had lots of friends, but I never really felt like any of them. When I left the town and went to university I for the first time felt like I was surrounded by people who were more like me. I was just different from the people I grew up with.

So yeah.. no regrets on not maintaining friendships with people I went to high school with. I'm different from them and they're different from me. We have always had very different interests and goals in life, so it makes total sense that we didn't keep in touch and continue to be a part of each other's lives. It may be different for you, but the ones that are still friends with the same high school people are the ones that never left that small country town.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 3:59 AM on August 15, 2012

I have only one friend from high school. I have a lot of people who I'd be friendly towards if you put me into a room with them, and they'd be friendly towards me; and in high school we were friends.

However, after I moved away and spent years making my own friends, I finally realized that those "friends" were always really really cliquey and had this weird symbiotic incestuous stuff amongst them all and I was always just on the periphery and they really never paid much attention to me, except for this one friend who has always loved me and had my best interests at heart just like I do hers; and the friends I've made since high school are a lot more like friends because they actually care about me and want to actively know me rather than just having me about like a pet or an ornament or something while they go on with their same weird little games that they still are doing after 20 years.

So no, it's not weird, because sometimes some people don't ever leave high school on some level. If you graduated and they didn't, then....that's that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have one friend from the block I grew up on (literally know each other from birth), one from a youth choir when we were in seventh grade, and a friend I met on a college visit. I don't have any friends from high school. None from college, either (as in, not a one). And while I wasn't one of the cool kids, I wasn't a recluse either.

It's OK to have friends from...whenever. Really.
posted by notsnot at 4:10 AM on August 15, 2012

I'm a lot like 9000condiments! Grew up in a rural area, went to a very small elementary school (anywhere from 60 to 80 students in the entire, 5-year school). I have two friends I've known since we were born (one day apart for the first, three months apart for the second), and a group of 30-odd people I've known since preschool. Not all of us are close; about a dozen of them hold very different opinions on life, politics etc. There are about ten of us who are pretty delighted to see each other grow up and discover that in all the ways we've changed, we've remained essentially the same people, but with more maturity, roundedness and what have you. The ones who have kids totally throw us for a loop because, WHOA they look and talk and play so much like their parents did at their age, and it is a pretty cool thing to remember that. It's very specific to our elementary school, however, and it was a phenomenon that our middle and high school teachers also remarked on; that the kids from our particular elementary had a bond they didn't see from other schools. There's just one friend I met in middle school who's still in touch, and just two met in high school. Then several from university.

There is another reason, in my case, for the childhood-friends anomaly, though – because I too know very few people with that sort of experience. I grew up in a rather awful family, and at least for me, having that firm group of childhood friends has been my way of experiencing what other people think of as "family". Many of them have experienced deaths and traumatic divorces in their families, and find that our friendships play a similar role as well. For instance, when someone mentions a conservative uncle who occasionally goes off on a tirade and everyone just deals, well, that reminds me of a few of the friends. Or when someone whose facial expressions you've known all their life raises their eyebrow and twirks their mouth in "that" way, you just KNOW what it means, you've KNOWN it since they were 3, and you can't help but smile at the familiarity.

How do your newer friends compare?

Honestly, I never think about it in those terms. Comparison, I mean. It really is like family; you wouldn't think of comparing a relationship with your siblings to a close friendship formed in adulthood. They're each unique. For instance, I love hearing newer friends talk about their childhoods, and it helps me relate to things about my childhood friends that I didn't experience along with them and that we sometimes forget we didn't share, heh. It's also really neat to be able to discover someone as a full-fledged adult, with the past a foggy mystery. Like for behavioral quirks – without the history, they're just as meaningful. It's just different, and that's neat in and of itself.

C.S. Lewis wrote something in "The Four Loves" that expresses it well: "In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, 'Here comes one who will augment our loves.' "
posted by fraula at 5:22 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm in my mid-twenties and still have a couple of friends from high school (one from all the way back in 7th grade). In general I prefer hanging out with my friends made during college and after, since we have a bit more in common--i.e. we all wanted to go to a distinctive small school and generally share the values that it has; we like going to the same concerts together; whatever. My high school friends, while I like 'em, were more thrown together with me by circumstance, and we do not always have as much to talk about.

I think it might be a little unusual if you never saw anyone from high school but that doesn't describe you. As you can see, lots of people have one or two friends from that time.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:23 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am 40.

I lost touch with all my high school friends pretty much the instant I left town to go to college. I have not seen a single one of them since then except at my 10-year reunion, which was a lot of fun but confirmed for me that I am not very much like most of the people I went to high school with. I'm connected with a lot of them on Facebook -- because what the hell, everyone seems to facebook-friend people who went to high school with them whether they were friends back then or not -- and it turns out that two or three of them are awesome people who I probably could be friends with, if we lived anywhere near each other, and the rest are I'm sure fine people who I really don't have much in common with other than a hometown. Most of them still live in that hometown, or within a few hundred miles of it; it's probably not coincidence that the two or three people who I feel much commonality with also moved away. Nothing against my hometown, it's a fine hometown, just not for me.

I stayed close with a bunch of college friends for many years; that number has dwindled to a handful, and the closeness has shrunk to internet-based contact and the very occasional visit when we're already traveling -- but we're still close friends, just not the daily-contact kind. We may not talk for a year or two but if I showed up on their doorstep they'd take me in without batting an eye kind of friends.

My closest friends now are in three barely-overlapping groups: the first is a tight-knit group of my wife's college friends plus my first startup business friends plus a handful of locals who fell in with us over the years. The second group is local people who share an interest in an activity I enjoy, and who I see primarily while engaging in that activity. The third group is, for lack of a better concise description, not-so-local people who share a spiritual interest I am involved in, and who I see in person once a year but if they showed up on my doorstep I'd take them in without batting an eye.

TL;DR: It is important to have a tight-knit group of friends. It is not at all important what phase of your life those friends come from. Physical proximity is more important than temporal longevity.
posted by ook at 5:36 AM on August 15, 2012

The only people I know who are still regularly close to people they know in high school are people who never left home or who moved to the same city at the same time.

The only friends I have from that time were people that I had sort of met in high school but really only got close to in or after college.

Don't worry about it.
posted by valkyryn at 6:03 AM on August 15, 2012

Hello, thought I would throw my anecdotal data here.

I am 28 years old hang out with zero of my original group of friends from high school. Actually, I occasionally hang out with one person who was a grade above me during high school who I never talked to until college.

I don't think it’s weird at all. After high school people go their own paths. I went to a different college than most of my high school friends which already put us on different trajectories. Coming back, it was already getting slightly harder to hang out as they would tend to see me as the "old high school version" of me, when really I was changing albeit slowly.

Eventually, since our experiences and lifestyles were getting more and more different, we had a little less in common while we hung out over the years. After college - I was for the most part a different person than the high school version of me. I was more confident in myself and had a steady girlfriend. We still hung out from time to time, but then I had a steady job while they did not. Working 40 hours a week trying to hang out with people who bar tend puts yet another divide in the relationship as they will be drinking until 3 AM and you can't do because you have to wake up at 6AM.

Then I got married. Mind you my high school group of friends by this time still had on and off again relationships, lived in apartments in fun parts of town, had shift type work. I now had a wife who worked full time and own a house. My best man was a friend from high school, but that was 2 years ago and I haven't hung out with him since. Love the guy, but again, we have such different lives now it barely makes sense to hang out.

You can get the idea, but as more and more commonalities drop out over time, its no longer enough just to think other people are funny or cool or whatever to hang out on a regular basis. Your lifestyle becomes center to those who are in your life and those who are not.

I still love my high school friends and think they are hilarious, but its sort of an unwritten code that they know I have a house, a wife, and now even a child, and can't hang out anymore. And honestly, I don't really mind if I see them again because I know its going to take them awhile to catch up to major themes in my current life. I still occasionally make a point to hang out, but we are talking once every 1 - 2 years.

Interesting question, because I find the whole friend thing at late 20s is a tough crossroads which is where I am at now.
posted by amazingstill at 6:22 AM on August 15, 2012

I'm 50 and I'm very good friends with someone that I met when we were 12. Part of the thing that made us able to keep in touch is that seridipitously, we moved together. We both left Arizona for California at the same time. Then as I moved, we kept in touch.

We drifted apart for awhile, but now that we're about 6 hours away from each other, we're closer than ever. In fact, we're all going away to a cabin next week.

Social networking makes staying in touch so much easier these days! After my 30th reunion, I'm now friends with a butt load of people on Facebook and its so nice to have these folks commenting on silly little aspects of my life.

Here's what I've discovered about friendship. True friends can pick up where you left off, even if it's been decades since you've last seen each other. Also, you have the friends you need when you need them. Sometimes you have nothing in common any more. That's okay. Sometimes your shared history is all you need.

Be open to reconnecting, if you have common ground, you can pick up where you left off. If not, not.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:56 AM on August 15, 2012

Geography plays a big part, I think. I spent the first few years of my life in New York, basically grew up in Virginia, went to college in Maryland and lived there for a while, and now I'm settled back in Virginia. Apart from "hey, we used to know each other!" Facebook connections, I don't keep in regular touch with anyone from my elementary school days in New York. I also have very few close friends from my college days. But I stay in pretty close touch with friends I've known since high school--some of whom live elsewhere now and some of whom live in the town where we all used to hang out. One of my most frequent musical collaborators is a guy I've known since he was in the 8th grade. I went to his bachelor party last week.
posted by emelenjr at 7:01 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Reading through the answers, you do have to consider geography and lifestyle. The two people I see the most from my old high school group live near me, have similar work schedules, and are at similar stages in their lives. I see the others, too, but not as often, with the frequency basically dictated by how far away they are.

The culture where you grew up also plays a role, I think. I notice a lot of the answers from people who have kept in touch with no one are from people who grew up in small, seemingly isolated, communities. I grew up in a large suburb on the outskirts of a very large city. This meant two things:

1) It was possible to expand your horizons and see and do new things, if you sought it out.
2) A lot of people didn't seek it out, and were perfectly content to just stay in the area.

Now that I am thinking of it, all but one of the HS friends I've kept in touch with have lived away from my hometown at some point in the years since (and that one commuted to a college in the nearby very large city). Most of them don't currently live there, or wouldn't if they could afford not to. I think it's probably harder to find a group of people like this in a small, isolated town. It's also harder to get out.
posted by breakin' the law at 8:37 AM on August 15, 2012

I might be able to name a couple of my old classmates, but I haven't seen or heard from any of them in years, wouldn't recognize any if they suddenly popped up in front of me, and that's fine. Admittedly, I learned early on that people come and go in our lives: as a military brat, attending schools filled with lots of other military brats, there were constantly new kids arriving (frequently enough, that was me!) or old kids leaving. I learned to enjoy the friends I had, while I had them.

It seems likely that you're a very different person than you were as a 5-year-old, a 10-year-old or a 15-year-old, and you've probably (even if you don't consciously realize it) nowadays got much different preferences in who you do and don't like --- someone you met as a 5-year-old, someone who might've been your bestest, bestest forever & ever friend then, might or might not even register if you were to meet them now. Impossible to say!

I'd be glad for the friends you do have: cherish them and keep in touch, and don't worry so much about what might have been.
posted by easily confused at 8:42 AM on August 15, 2012

Ask yourself if you'd be friends with them if you met them today, first of all.

I think this is one (perhaps the only) service Facebook has provided us - a way to reconnect with people we used to know in a relatively non-creepy way and test the waters again without a lot of commitment. Look 'em up and friend request them. They don't friend you? Don't feel bad! That guy you knew with the Camaro and the wavy hair friended you but it turns out he sends a lot of game requests? Block him or drop him in a month or two! I guarantee he gets that a lot and probably doesn't notice. And then there'll be 1 or 2 that you're genuinely glad you reconnected with. If you're lucky. :-)

I have one friend I've kept up with since I left h.s. in the mid-80s, and we're both sort of intelligent and warped in similar ways. Via FB, I reconnected with an old friend I'd let slip, and we sorta comment on each other's FB ramblings and keep up with each other's doings now, and I like that. So FB has brought the number of h.s. friends I had from 1 to about 3-4, and that's probably on the high side of normal.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:51 AM on August 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

For reference, I am the kind of person who typically has a lot of friends, think "social butterfly." I have 3 friends from middle/high school, and probably 20 friends from the rest of my life, and a dozen or so more acquaintances.

Is the quality of my friendship better with these people than with newer friends? No. I am very, very close to these people, but I am also very, very close to some of my newer friends. It's about having shared experiences--you can know someone a long time and have a very shallow relationship with them, whereas you might have been through some Big Life Experience with someone recently and be closer to them that way.

Don't worry about it. I'd say it's probably pretty normal, and I would not stay in touch with someone that I had nothing else in common with just because I knew them a long time ago. Pick quality people to spend time around, and that's all that really matters.
posted by epanalepsis at 8:54 AM on August 15, 2012

I don't have friends from high school. I have some Facebook connections from high school. Even though I continued to live in my home town for twelve years after high school I didn't maintain those relationships.

Some of them don't seem to have changed much. Others seem to have changed completely. There are only a few that I kind of wish I at least had some contact with. But overall, I'm sure it's best just the way things are.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:54 AM on August 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to college, got married, and never looked back. Didn't keep in touch with anyone from high school. At all. And it never occurred to me that I was missing anything.

Recently, with Facebook, I did a search on some old friends and found some. I friended them, we had a few conversations to catch up and now we have virtually nothing in common to talk about.

So... really, you're probably not missing out on much.
posted by Doohickie at 9:00 AM on August 15, 2012

I am very lucky. I have two close girlfriends that I have maintained intimate friendships with for a long time. One I have known for 35 years, ever since elementary school. The other I have known for 27 years, ever since high school. But I'm guessing this is much more the exception than the rule. Interestingly, I have no friends from college, but then again I didn't get serious about college until I was 30 years old.

FWIW, if you have quality friendships from any phase of your life, including now, nurture and enjoy them as much as you can. And be open to cultivating new friendships too. You never know when you might meet the next great friend of your life.
posted by strelitzia at 9:02 AM on August 15, 2012

I have a bunch of friends from high school, mostly because I grew up near a major city where lots of people move after college, and so a bunch of us ended up moving to that city at around the same time. These friendships are indistinguishable from the friendships I made later in life.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:03 AM on August 15, 2012

When my parents got divorced, the joke was that my dad got "custody" of the friends, and mom moved on and made new ones.

I seem to have inherited this from her. I am not in contact with anyone I went to high school with, and I am only in contact with one person from college. I think as you grow older, you grow apart from some friends, and that's okay. Are you the same person you were in high school? No? Then, why should your friends be the same?
posted by wittgenstein at 9:21 AM on August 15, 2012

I sort of see this the other way around.

One of the people I am closest to now, the fabulous Jamey, once said that the most effortless friendships are the ones where you don't mind their damage and they don't mind yours. The broken edges of your personalities join up like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It was a hugely illuminating moment for me and I think of it often, when I'm thinking about how people interact. The lucky ones are the ones with compatible damage.

In the case of Jamey and me the specific outlines of our damage are very similar: growing up unhappy, bullied misfits in conformist suburban communities (she gay in Walnut Creek, me just weird in Sydney's Northern Beaches), then coming to San Francisco and immersing ourselves in progressive politics and literature and science and delicious food. So that despite having met relatively late in life, in our thirties, after having our first children, we have a connection that feels as if it goes back many more years, and a set of shared understandings that don't need to be contextualized or explained.

And here's what's interesting. With one exception, I don't share that connection with any of the people I knew in high school. They could fit in, they could conform to the place where we were raised, and many of them ended up marrying their first sweethearts and settling down in houses very like their parents'. One of them actually bought his parents' house and is raising his kids in very rooms in which he grew up. Many of them are fine and good people, doctors and teachers and et cetera (not the bullies, they were awful) and sure, we are Facebook friends, but the prospect of having to explain even the premises of my life choices to people like these is exhausting.

So. That guy who bought his parents' house? His sister has been one of my closest friends since I was thirteen and she was eleven. That's getting on for thirty years now. In that time we have barely lived in the same hemisphere for more than a few years at a stretch. She went to France, and when she came back to Australia I went to Ireland, and when I came back she did some long stretches in Pennsylvania and Arizona, and when she came back I moved to California, and now she and her husband have moved to New York. What we have in common is not, or not only, that we came from the same place. It's that we were both weird misfits who were driven to leave. It's not our circumstances that are compatible. It's our damage.

And when I look at all the people I am closest to, no matter when or how I met them (church choir, university, Irish theatre company, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Burning Man, equestrian sports, political activism, in the playground while our kids were playing together) what they all have in common is that restlessness and curiosity. Restless, curious people understand what it's like to have been restless and curious in your teens (usually pretty harsh) and to find the place where restlessness and curiosity are not considered character defects (this calls for celebration.) Relationships with people with whom I share all that feel as if they are of longer duration than they are.

Tl; dr - I have few friends left from my actual school years, but I have a lot of people I would have given my right arm to know when I was a kid. I mourned their absence then. But I don't have to any more!
posted by rdc at 9:25 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm 23 and only speak to 1 person from my high school regularly. I do understand the sentiment that you're expressing. It's hard when your friends are all still close friends with their high school buddies because it makes you realize that you lack something and may challenge your feelings of normalcy.

I'm generally OK with my lack of high school connections - frankly, I hated high school and was so happy to get out of there - but if my current friends talk about their close relationships with people they've known forever, I do get jealous. My roommate brought me to a family-and-friends BBQ in her hometown this past weekend and I was kind of blown away by the idea that these people genuinely still like each other's company and felt sad because I didn't have that kind of support in my life. It somehow made me feel lonely even though I'm well encircled in my day to day.

The way I manage these feelings is by examining how much I have changed since high school. I'm literally a different person. My high school buddies are likely different people as well. What are the chances that my friends in high school have grown in a similar direction? Would my life really be enriched by the inclusion of one of those people? Am I lacking in terms of my social needs? Do I feel lonely regularly or just now? This usually leads me to conclude that I'm just sad I don't have similar connections in the abstract, but that my life is generally very good and I'm happy. (I still go through this process every time my friends mention close connections to their high school or earlier friends and their family.)
posted by buteo at 10:59 AM on August 15, 2012

I have one close friend from high school. It is nice to have a friend who understands what life was like "back then."

I have a couple friends from college. One I talk to every day, the other I talk to occasionally.

I do have lots of "facebook friends"--mostly people I grew up with who now have families. It's neat to see them as parents in a "this is how the other half lives" way.

Most of the really groovy friends I have I only met a few years ago.
posted by luckynerd at 12:04 PM on August 15, 2012

Good ${deity} no.

I went to a very small high school, and had a really rough time there socially. Toward the end I had a very small group of friends, who I later concluded were only using me because I didn't like to drink and therefore made a very convenient designated driver by default.

I had a huge falling out with my group of friends during my sophomore year of college. I don't remember the specific details, but it had something to do with planning a big drinking thing that I didn't think would be much fun for me. I never spoke to any of them again. By this time I had a really good set of college friends and so this didn't really bother me at all.

I settled in a different state from where I went to high school (actually, I've lived in several states since college, which presents some unique challenges as far as one's social life is concerned... but I think I'm staying put for the foreseeable future), so I'm not sure I'd be able to stay in touch with any high school friends I did have. I have enough trouble staying in touch with my college friends -- we scattered all over the country on vacation and I haven't seen any of them in years and I don't feel as close as I used to -- THIS bothers me as I was once very good friends with these people.

Via Facebook, I maintain a sort of "minimal awareness of what's going on" with people who were in my graduating class in high school but not in my core group of friends. One person who graduated with me ended up living in the same state as me (though she's about two hours' drive away), so I pay a little bit more attention though not much more. I'm not sure I'd ever form strong friendships with these people, but that doesn't bother me.

Friends I made after high school seem to be a lot less "fair weather friends," and are certainly less alcohol-focused people in general. I like the stronger friendships I made in college and afterward. It's a lot harder to make new friends and stay in contact with old ones when you're moving around a lot, so I hope I can start meeting some people in my area... though with the way my life has been for the past year or so I doubt I'd have time for socializing.
posted by tckma at 1:16 PM on August 15, 2012

You spent 4 years with those friends, but you've spent a lot *more than* four years since. It's only natural for things to wear off.

Or to put it a different way: you didn't choose those friends, necessarily, because they happened to be at the same school as you. So now that you're out in the wide, wide world and actually have to choose who to hang out with, it's not surprising that you don't feel very attached to people you were randomly put in a class with a decade ago.
posted by tacodave at 3:06 PM on August 15, 2012

Although I have a few old friends from high school, they all live at least an hour away so I don't see them very often. However, they are all guys and I'm good friends with their wives too, but I don't have that clutch of high school girlfriends that pop culture tells me I'm supposed to have had for the last 25 years.

What has struck me recently is how comfortable I feel around newer friends who happen to be the same age as me - sometimes it's really nice to hang with people who experienced all the same pop culture at the same time I did and don't give me a blank stare when I mention something that happened before 1985. So it doesn't matter that we didn't see Back to the Future together or listen to ABBA at the same sleepover, what matters is that we both have the same type of memories to share in conversation. I like my younger friends too, but when the idea of being 40 gets me down, my special peeps are the ones going through the same stage of life as I am, regardless of how long I've been friends with them.

I do have one really close girlfriend now who went to high school with me, but we only really became friends a few years ago when we re-connected on Facebook, and discovered that our old mutual friend constantly pitted us against each other so that neither of us would be better friends with each other than we were with her (so very high school!). With that "friend" out of the way, we've been making up for lost time but kind of lament all the years that we "should have" been friends, so reaching out on Facebook, as suggested up thread, might be a neat idea that may or may not result in a new connection.

In general though, it sounds like you have a fantastic circle of friends and the ability to make friends easily - those are two very great and enviable gifts.
posted by champagneminimalist at 5:46 PM on August 15, 2012

« Older For f's sake   |   Photoshop stroked objects and drop shadows Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.