A senior once told me that the older you are, the harder it gets to make new friends. Maybe that’s why in recent years, some of my secondary school classmates who have not been showing up at gatherings for the past 30+ years are finally appearing. Well, better late than never, I guess.
Going by Singapore’s average life expectancy, my time is probably not up yet. Nevertheless, I have already lost quite a few good friends (my contemporaries) to accidents, illness or pure negligence. For some of those whose contact details I’ve misplaced and allowed to slip out of the loop, Facebook has helped me redeem myself. Tracking down those who feel the same about the scarcity of true friends and want to be found is not difficult. But the trouble is, do we do anything about these long lost friends after finding them? Do we take the time and effort to meet up and catch up?
Yes, it’s Christmas again. When I was younger and living alone, I had so many friends that I could afford to spend Christmas, New Year and even weekends with different groups of friends every year, every week. Don’t underestimate the power of yesterday’s email, newsgroups and text-only discussion forums. In the early days of the internet, I was making new friends every day and meeting up with groups and “gangs” formed online every weekend. Virtually meetings often turned into actual meetups at pubs, makan places or even homes.
One family I got to know operated a fish farm at Lorong Halus. We used to hold parties there, feasting, drinking and singing to our hearts’ content. When I wasn’t partying in Thailand, I was partying with them. One of those I met online and later got to know at these parties became my travel partner. We climbed Mt Kinabalu and Mera Peak together. We could have climbed more mountains if he didn’t have cancer and died.
Yes, I made many good friends in those days but frankly, I don’t remember many of their names or faces now (though I did manage to find a couple of them on Facebook). So how did we lose touch with one another? The groups comprised (literally) people from all walks of life. Most of us were single. A few were desperate and some were oversuspicious of others’ intentions. Some were recently married and still in the honeymoon phase of their lives. There were even a few creepy characters who did weird things behind our backs. With such a mixed bag, conflicts were unavoidable. Over time, those who couldn’t fit in were dropped. Those who couldn’t agree with our political opinions or got jilted also stopped turning up. Not surprising. I guess that would have happened even if we had come from the same school or shared the same interests.
Then, some of us (like me) got married. Some had children, some bought condos, some bought new cars, some had new financial commitments which robbed them of leisure, some got posted overseas… In short, we had less and less free time to attend gatherings. Gradually, we drifted apart. It has been some years now and as I quit the rat race again, I begin to see the importance of having friends with whom we can relax, unwind or engage in some hobbies without inhibitions or exclusions of others who might be interested in joining in. And if we were fortunate or unfortunate enough to see some of our friends “expire” (one way or another) before we do, it may be necessary to make new friends even at 90.
I don’t celebrate Christmas this year, but I celebrate friendship. Let’s be friends.
© Chan Joon Yee