Reconnecting With Long-Lost Friends
Because friendships fizzle and fracture over time, people often think about seeking out old friends.
Have you ever thought about an old friend, wishing you could reconnect?
As we’ve written about before, as we get older, it’s natural to lose friends over time. And that’s not always a bad thing: Like some gardens, friendships need weeding too, and the weeds we pull and eliminate are rarely missed.
Of course, losing friends in other ways—through death, lives taking a different path, or a falling out—can be entirely different experiences. When we’re not in charge of making the decision to keep a friend, losing one can be fraught with sadness and nostalgic longing.
But what of the friend who got away? Sometimes, simply through time and distance, rather than dissent, friendships fizzle.
Reconnecting with old friends: Does it work?
If you’re feeling lonely and wanting to fill a friendship void, one way to replenish your stock of friends might be to dig deep into your past. Rediscovering a friend with whom you have a shared history can truly be a treasure.
Imagine reconnecting with someone who is familiar with the neighborhood where you grew up, your parents and/or siblings, or your old elementary school teachers.
Or perhaps, it’s a person with whom you shared some firsts: a bunk at sleepaway camp, a locker in high school, your most precious secret, or the friend you made at your first job.
Though the chances of resurrecting an old friendship are unpredictable, it might turn out to be an unexpected and delightful surprise.
Sometimes, old friends are able to pick up right where they left off. Although many years may have passed, it feels like time has stood still for the two of you. Other times, it feels awkward and there isn’t much to say after exchanging a few pleasantries and memories; you wonder if it is really the same person you knew then. Chances are, you are different people, but more than that, your lives have diverged and you haven’t grown in the same trajectory.
Some friendships thrive perennially; their roots independently join to form an even stronger foundation whose beauty emerges after the last of the frost has surrendered, year after year. They grow in perfect synchrony, undisturbed, infinitum. And then there are those that cannot be counted on; some becoming uprooted, destroyed, mishandled.
Yet, if you keep your expectations in check, the odds are that just making the connection, even if it turns out to be fleeting, could be well worth the effort.
Our personal experiences
After we found each other online, at one of my book-signing events in Maryland, I was left breathless when my best friend Anita from my old neighborhood in New York showed up to meet me.
From the age of eight, we walked to school together each morning, played hopscotch and stoop ball outside, and did homework at each other’s houses after school. She introduced me to her cousin who lived nearby and often joined us.
Since our houses were attached, it was so neat to know my best friend and I even had a shared wall!
Anita always gave me one of the Twinkies in her two-pack that her mother packed in her lunch box. (She needed to gain weight and I didn’t).
I was devastated when her family moved away, around the time we were 12.
When we met again for the first time after so many years, she had a terrific memory and jogged my brain circuits with stories from our childhood that I had long forgotten. We haven’t spoken since but remain connected on Facebook.
Marilyn and I shared a deep, best friendship from third grade all the way through college and beyond. But life “got in the way;” soon after she married, we grew distant, and the best friend I’d had for so much of my growing up was no longer in my life.
A very sad situation —losing a mutual friend at age 40—brought us briefly back together. We reunited over tears and shared memories at Wendy’s memorial, feeling the pull of what once was, vowing to see one another again. And we did - just once.
We met at a coffee shop and pored over old photo albums that Marilyn brought with her (she was always so much better organized than I!). I was so grateful for the many hours we sat and reminisced, but somehow the memories were too old to make up for the distance in our present lives, which went on without one another (save for our annual happy birthday greetings via Facebook). No hard feelings. No hidden resentments. Just one of those things that inevitably and inexplicably happens between friends.
How to find lost friends
Finding a lost friend can be akin to finding a buried treasure. In some cases, it can satisfy our curiosity of whatever happened to that person.
Are you thinking about searching for an old friend, and wondering how to go about it? Here are a few suggestions:
Try finding the person using Google by putting her first name and last name in quotes. See what comes up. If you know the city and/or state where she lives or last lived, you can refine the search by putting that after her name in quotes.
Check out groups from your high school or college on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter (now x). You might find such a group by searching for the name of your school.
No luck finding her yet? Are her parents, siblings, or other relatives findable? Chances are they may still live in the same town she did. Try finding their phone numbers or email addresses.
If you don’t know any relatives, you could try the friend-of-a-friend route. Do you know someone who knew her with whom you’re still in touch, and who may be easier to find?
Any clue to the kind of work she is doing? Perhaps you can find her through Linkedin or a professional association
Finding old female friends is far more challenging than finding male ones, because of changes in surnames. Another trick: Search major newspapers for engagement or wedding announcements that may offer clues to your girlfriend’s new married name.
Finally, even better than digging: If you develop a blog, personal website, or other web presence, your old friends may come out of the woodwork looking for you!
If you keep your expectations in check, it can be rewarding to seek out old friends.
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We would love to hear your own stories about any experiences you’ve had in trying to reconnect with a long lost friend. What happened? Did it bring the friendship back together? Please share by leaving a comment below!