You Can’t Make Old Friends

Sometimes when you meet someone new, you feel a strong connection to them. This can happen for a variety of reasons. But for me, the feeling of connection is always accompanied by a feeling of frustration. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is at the heart of me making friends as an adult.

The frustration results from the new potential friend not knowing anything about you (and vice versa)—despite an excellent first encounter, they don’t know your history or your true level of sincerity about anything. I always have a strong desire to explain myself to these rare people—but this explanation isn’t justification, it’s evidence.

This frustration is similar to this one: you love a thing, whether that is a TV franchise, a book series, or whatever. You’ve loved it forever, and you know everything about it. You love to discuss it. Then, one day, one of your friends begins to also enjoy that thing—they watch the first episode, read the first book, or whatever—and all the sudden you want them to just be done with it. You don’t want to rush their experience, but you want to share your full one with them and enjoy it together.

The same holds true with people: until you know a great deal about them (“watched the series of their life,” so to speak), and they know a great deal about you, you can’t forge a truly deep (Aristotle’s friends of the good) relationship with them. This process, unfortunately, cannot be rushed. In my experience, it takes me about two years to go from actively deciding to be friends with someone to platonically loving them.

This might otherwise be called the frustration with acquiring old friends. You can’t just make an old friend who’s known you for a while, and consequently understands you more than others might (and vice versa). If you want more friends like this, you have to start today and let them mature over the course of years.

There’s nothing to do about this frustration—good friendships take time to build, even with someone who is remarkably like you. But being aware of the emotion, and why it exists, is beneficial nonetheless. It primes me to cultivate new friendships when opportunity strikes, and to continue to cultivate friendships that I’ve made.

There are too many stories of friends falling out of touch, and not because of any bad reason, just because one moves away or something—I’ve had a few of these. But I will conscientiously avoid having them in the future. To give up a friend also means losing someone who shares a piece of your life that perhaps no one else will understand, having not witnessed it. Assuming that this friend is a good person, I generally think it’s worth the work to keep up with them (there are qualification to this, of course, but those aren’t the subject of this essay).


Note: for anyone who’s read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, I would call the corollary of this frustration Claudia syndrome, per this line said by Armand to Louis:

“She’s an era for you, an era of your life. If and when you break with her, you break with the only one alive who has shared that time with you. You fear that, the isolation of it, the burden…”


This post is part of my project to write one essay every day of February 2018. The essay topics will vary, but they’ll all be something I’m interested in. All essays can be found here.

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