For the most productive parts of my year, Marilynne Robinson’s words were my Mantra: “Frankly, you get to a certain point in your life where you can do unusual things with your mind. So then, I think, do them.”
What Marilynne doesn’t explain is that doing stems from being; that our being is tied, irrevocably, to our interactions, our relationships; that in reinvention, we shed our pasts and people in them to emerge into new forms of ourselves. There is something visceral, violent even, in leaving friends to gain new frontiers.
In August, I was added to a WhatsApp group of my secondary school classmates. My first comment was a rant. Someone asked why I was speaking as though I did not attend the same school like everyone else. Even I am a stranger to the boy they used to know.
It was easy to severe secondary-school ties. I used to be good at that. The secret is to avoid nostalgia, excise memories, and dull the mind with new experiences. I did this without guilt. I often say I am content in solitude and enjoy being an island, but when I entered university, I made new friends who showed me friendships are not just bridges that can be burnt at will and reconstructed. They are anchors that prevent me from drifting.
Trying to describe the loss of friendship, Murakami wrote of the titular character in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage:
“The pain he felt was, if anything, more intense, and weighed down on him even more greatly because of distance. Alienation and loneliness became a cable that stretched hundreds of miles long pulled to the breaking point by a gigantic winch. And through that taut line, day and night, he received indecipherable messages. Like a gale blowing between trees, those messages varied in strength as they reached him in fragments, stinging his ears.”
Towards the end of the year, my life began to imitate art; Tsukuru’s story came alive with vivid intensity. In striving to be the kind of person who can do the things I now think my mind is capable of, I was drifting away from my friends.
Last month, I spoke to one of my best friends. I asked her about work.
“You are so out of date,” she said with laughter in her voice.
We spent hours trying to fill the yawning void between us, trying to get back to the way things were (the way they should be?).
Time is the tie of friendship, affection its strut, and these I do not possess in infinite quantities. Having severed, at will, friendships in secondary school and anchored myself to friends in university, I’m learning as a young adult that it is okay to drift away from some friends without angst or guilt. To build new bridges some of the old ones have to be dismantled.
I walk through the phantom space where bridges used to be, hoping there is enough muscle memory to take me past the awkwardness of encountering old friends; you know, matching faces to places and names to dreams. Nonetheless, I am grateful for friends—past, present, future—who anchor me to reality and to whom I owe bountiful debts of love.
© IfeOluwa Nihinlola, 2015
Ife blogs @ ifenihinlola
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