Sixteen of us sat around a campfire as friends laughing, crying, telling stories, and singing. It was our last night with two dear friends who could rightfully be called the glue of our group. The next morning they were pulling out of LA and moving back home just like seven others from our circle had done earlier this year. Piece by piece the connections that had brought us all together were falling apart. Towards the end of the night it struck me that the faces I looked at around the fire were all becoming strangers. Who are all these people I have accepted so long as friends of friends but not really taken as my own? What is going to keep us together now, and will we all even want to stay together? It all of a sudden seemed that the framework of our social structure was dangerously unstable. We are a puzzle that has a bunch of pieces missing in the middle. I realized that night that there are two ways your smile starts to hurt- the good kind that comes from laughing so hard you can’t stop smiling and the notably more painful kind that comes from straining to keep the corners of your mouth in a smile so they won’t fall into the chin-quiver position.
The next day, the inevitable happened. We hugged goodbye and sent them off with tearful well wishes (as passers-by thought there was some sort of funeral going on). And then they were gone, and I stood by my car wondering where to go. It’s not that I didn’t have things to do or that normally at this time I would be with those two. I just didn’t know what was coming next. After a two-hour period of being worthless and wallowing in self-pity, I hopped on my bike just to go somewhere.
As I rode things cleared up. I had choices. I mean we have choices. We can move on and sort of start over with a clean slate elsewhere. This choice actually has some appeal because it seems like an easier choice, to just let whatever happens happen. If no one makes an effort to keep us together we will likely drift apart naturally, and we will fall in line with other groups and friends. The other choice is to find our new common ground and to build a stronger foundation for the friendships we have.
I think the only real choice is the second if I want to be worth my weight in salt. Too often in Los Angeles, friendships can be devalued. The landscape is so transient and the atmosphere so artificial that focus is placed on oneself. People come and go often enough that working on maintaining relationships is seen as unnecessary or unimportant. There are sooo many people too. Everyone is replaceable in LA. You can’t play this role? No problem, we have fifty guys with faces like yours and talent just as deep that can take your place. You won’t sing that song? Alright, see ya later. NEXT!! I’m not in the entertainment industry, but I feel like I’m hit with its repercussions in the city’s culture. Many times things work the same in dating, workplace, and friendships. There is no loyalty. I won’t let the city change me that way.
Instead, I will work to rebuild and reshape these friendships. I’ve been using the puzzle analogy thus far, and in some ways it’s applicable. Some of our relationships have been rather one-dimensional and rigid. But the truth is that we aren’t cut in one flat shape, and most of us haven’t yet seen all the different sides of each other. We have to find the connections we didn’t know we had because we were so used to fitting together one way. It will probably take more effort, and it possibly won’t work. But the only way I’m looking at the loss of our seven wonderful friends is as an opportunity to continue to build on and to strengthen the foundation they left behind.