Shifting Gears [5]



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“You are so out of date,” she said with laughter in her voice.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


Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

37 thoughts on “Shifting Gears [5]

  1. Ife, I am one who has only purposely let two friends go, knowing that I mat regret losing a middle school friend and an adult one. I am a little like Jill, I carry friends in my heart, one elementary school friend, two high school friends, two college and three “adult” friends who I met once I had children. 🙂 I hope the letting go for Ife, or others, doesn’t later cause regrets. Take care and happy new year to Ife, Timi and all. . . °•○●¤☆¤●○•°

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that depending on the degree of the investment in the friendship, letting go can be difficult and we may find ourselves second-guessing our decisions.
      How lovely to carry friends in your heart! How wonderful to have such friends!
      Happy new year Robin! 🙂


      1. Definitely, though I should clarify about that meaningful comment. It’s more like 150 people about whom you could be expected to know where they work, who they are married to, what their kids’ are called, etc. It’s not BFFs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting food for thought. I have come to accept that I am not very good at taking extra measures in ensuring the longevity of friendships I have built with people. But I have also come to accept that it is okay to let some friendships die a natural death when the points of mutual interest and benefit become fuzzy or non-existent. Nevertheless, I find that acts of kindness, even if from friendship begun in the distant past, breed strong nostalgia for me; enough to make me continually fan the flames of such friendship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is friendship without points of mutual interest and benefits?

      I think there’s a quote along these lines: No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted… It seems to be true 🙂


  3. Hello Ife,

    You wrote this so elegantly, I really enjoyed reading. 🙂

    I once fell into the bliss of “islanding” myself. For one who thrives on solitude; on the enoughness of themselves, the joys of being able to glide through life with no commitment to sustain niceties becomes almost intoxicating.

    But the thing is, I really-really like people. Human relationships are a beautiful thing, giving and receiving emotions, a healthy cycle.

    I’ve learned that it is only natural to outgrow people and let new ones grow on you at certain phases in one’s life. Sometimes, I feel guilty about the ones I lazily allowed to fly off like kites, wishing I held on to the string a bit more firmly.

    I am thankful for friends who fill my life with colour and keep me grounded with their love and understanding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Sometimes, I feel guilty about the ones I lazily allowed to fly off like kites, wishing I held on to the string a bit more firmly, aw. But then you never chase after them … right? There must be a reason…

      I agree, elegant, that’s the word. Ife articulated himself, elegantly.
      Thanks Nedoux.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can relate on some levels. I think that friends and family are the most precious gifts of life. Sometimes we will not be able to avoid drifting apart and sometimes we will have to actively truncate relationships because of the moral toll they may be taking on us but for all that, friendship, relationship will still remain the greatest treasures of life. We should always treat them as such.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I enjoyed this post. I’ve been thinking about old university friends lately. I usually keep up with friends I made in graduate school more so than undergraduate. I think because my grad program is closer to my heart. I hear from some undergraduate friends, but only sporadically. We’re all in different fields.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @I hear from some undergraduate friends, but only sporadically, it sounds as though this doesn’t bother you? Or does it since you’ve been thinking about old university friends? It shouldn’t right? We have circles of friendship- inner ring; outer ring ….


  6. Severing friendships… Is it ever that simple?

    Many years ago, as a teenager, I held on helplessly to a friendship from primary school. After nearly seven years of chasing my “best friend”, I realized she’d moved on long before our bond was broken.

    In the end, I mourned my loss and accepted new friends. There was no blame to share; life happened.

    Thanks Ifem, but your piece didn’t help me avoid nostalgia! (LOL)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Christy, aw, seven years a best-friend chaser, lol! 🙂

      I guess the more a relationship matters to us, the harder it is to sever.

      @nostalgia, well if this piece makes us consider past, present, and maybe future friendships, perhaps Ife has done his job?

      Thanks Christy.


  7. Reading this, I realized that I have an enduring friendship with someone I met in grade school, high school and college. All three of those friendships have remained strong. The longest being 42 years, The people I’ve met in the workplace over the years, have come and gone. I value my longtime friends, as they’re a touchstone to my past.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Reinvention . . . growth . . . change . . . aargh!

    Your ‘formula’ for severing ties is clinical- avoid nostalgia, excise memories, and dull the mind with new experiences. If life was always that simple . . .

    If time is the tie of friendship and affection its strut, then perhaps shared interests is its glue?

    I find myself nodding at this Paul Coelho quote:
    “Close some doors. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because they no longer lead somewhere.”

    I think we just need to be careful to close the doors gently … well, in some cases.

    You helped me acknowledge something I hadn’t quite articulated, that some friendships are anchors that prevent me from drifting.

    Thanks Ife!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. On our way from THERE to HERE, we enjoy the company of thousands of people who add light, love, and laughter to life.

    These friendships come and go, they ebb and flow like the tides. We drift together and then drift apart.

    Letting go is part of life.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. There is this adage that says 2children can keep playing together for 20 years. Separation and loneness are twins emotions that are intricate emblem that indicates our humanity. And such shouldn’t be feared rather it ought to be embraced.

    I was an extremely introvert in high school years back as much I don’t mingle well. Even sometimes when I come across some of them on social media – no connection. I have been a kind of person that is careful in choosing association. And unless someone fit my criteria, I’d rather be alone. I had always had this philosophy of ” its rather to be alone than be with the wrong crowd” .

    OK I am beginning to rant, 😀 .

    Just like you inam beginning to understand the value of building friendships howbeit online for now though. I am a social awkwardness case.

    Beautiful articles you got, have a cup of tea

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I am with you on that especially for such who had a memorable childhood. I don’t think in had one cos I am always indoor. I think I had one such friend but we drifted when we both move town. Those days there wasn’t way to communicate except through letter but we were both too lazy to do that

        Friends are priceless which I agree with especially when you have special ones. One thing I believe is that we unconsciously attract who we are.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Love this. It captures the struggle to prioritize in our busy lives that leave little time for one of the major keys to growth, introspection, unless we make sacrifices. There are seasons for the journey of each life and the timing will vary because we are all unique. Now, in my last years I seek balance. The catalyst of both supportive friendships and the conflicts of differences within work or church relationships are also necessary for growth.
    I have some friendships that have survived and thrived for 65 years across long periods without communications. The internet is a great gift for renewing long distance friendships.
    Interestingly, on a recent trip I had lunch with four people I knew, but had not had any communication with, for 65 years. One of them I only knew in a very surface way, but found in listening to her now, that I could probably relate better to her than the others that I was closer to those many years ago.
    Good, thought provoking, well written post. Thanks.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Eileen, I’m grateful for the perspective you always bring to these discussions. I also have people I still refer to as my closest friends, but who, in spite of the internet, I’ve not communicated with for ages. I’m wondering how long we can all keep that up.

      Outside of shared experiences, how do you relate with friends you’ve barely communicated with in 65 years?

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You write and think so beautifully! I am impressed. More introverted, cerebal people, ie., people who spend a lot of time exploring their mind and contemplating the world and their place in it, may find social interactions less fulfilling. This is one reason why I like introverts so much

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Hello Cindy,

      I agree with you, I’ve learned that when one finds the will to dwell inside themselves, they tend to discover that they can be all that they need. They find a satisfying self-sufficiency.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. You have such a strong voice, Ife. It was easy to tell you wrote this even before I got to the end 🙂

    And your story resonates with me. I’ve found myself thinking about past friendships– the ones I severed ties with. And I think about them with a feeling of guilt. But like you said, I’m also grateful for them. They were anchors in the most bizarre time of my life and I’m forever indebted.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Uju. Long time no see. 🙂 Am I just imagining it, or you’ve been AWOL for a while?

      @ “think about them with a feeling of guilt.” Yeah, the guilt does take time to work through, and sometimes it’s useful in making us reconnect with people we should do that with. But other times, it just gets in the way of blissful reminiscence.

      @ “such a strong voice.” First compliment of the day. Thank you. Thank you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol yes I have been AWOL. Academia has been getting in the way of blogging, reading followed blogs and commenting. Thank God it’d over for now 🙂
        Good to read from you again.


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