My Personal Life (And Lack Thereof)

I don't have a lot of friends from childhood. I know people who do. I know people who have their elementary school friends, their middle school friends, their high school friends. Maybe I'm just not a good keep-in-touch-er.

But I do have one friend from elementary school. We met in 6th grade and immediately started spending all of our time together. She was my best friend from 6th grade to 10th grade.

In 10th grade she transferred to another high school, and while we didn't spend as much time together, we definitely kept in touch.

When I went away to college, she joined the military. We kept in touch through letters. She was lonely and miserable in the military. Her letters were full of stories about how every female in her unit was sleeping with all of their male supervisors, the infidelity and STDs that were rampant. Every letter included a countdown of when she could come home, when her time would be over, lists of things she missed.

Email was a pretty new thing, and mostly used for forwarding jokes (since not everyone checked it reliably enough to send anything important via email), so I would print out email pages full of jokes circulating around my college and send them with my letters. Eventually, she asked me to stop because my letters were arriving with postage due.

Her first break home, she married her high school boyfriend and got pregnant. I think she saw it as the cure to her homesickness. It wasn't. Instead, she was worried about how her husband and the baby were doing at home, and she beat herself up for being a bad mother and leaving her newborn.

We lost touch again for a few years again towards the end of college and my first year of law school. She must have gotten my law school address from my parents - because she reconnected with me by sending a new family portrait, including her second child.

Now... we keep in touch sporadically. We always see each other over Christmas. In between, we see each other a couple of times, we talk on the phone maybe once a month. I feel a commitment to staying in touch, and sometimes call even though I don't feel like it. Sometimes it feels more like a chore.

It's tough. We just have very different lives. If I met her today (without a decade of history behind us), I doubt we'd be friends.

But I feel like there is something worthwhile about maintaining an old friendship.

Not only do we have very different lives, but we also have a very hard time relating to each other's lives.

I come home from work, and, some nights, I can barely muster up enough energy to shove a slice of pizza in my mouth before I fall asleep. Some weekends I really do spend the entire weekend prepping a trial, or going to crime scenes. And I enjoy it, I love what I do.

I cannot imagine working full time and coming home to two children. I cannot imagine going to work in the morning to a job that is just "work" to me.

I wouldn't trade my life, and I don't think she would trade hers.

But I feel offended that if I want to make work my life, that isn't seen as valid, but if she wants to make her children her life, it is.

Yes, she's a mother, and she's helping shape their little lives and whatnot...

But my job is important too! It's not like I'm working in some crappy job. I'm helping people too!

Anyway, I raise all this because she left a message on my cell phone the other night that said, (in a tone that I took to be quite snide), "Hey, I haven't heard from you in a while. I guess you're busy. I don't know... It's not like you're working full-time and raising two children..."

Grrrr. No, you're just going to an office job where you sit on your ass all day and I'm getting people out of jail and getting yelled at by judges and running all around and working twice as many hours as you and I still get to pay back law school loans.

I know that I need to just cut her some slack and not let it be a big deal.

But it really annoyed me. And I'm really feeling like I just don't want to call her back.

Like, maybe, ever.

And, another part of me thinks that I have to because... get this stupid reason... it's somehow really wrong to not have any childhood friends. That's stupid, right?

So, I don't know. I thought writing it all out might help me figure something out. I guess, in the end, I'll probably just let it go for a few days and then forget all about it. Because that's the way I am.

But I'm willing to hear some advice or perspective, if you've got it.

23 comments:

  1. Ours can be a lonely and misunderstood life. Our families wonder why we do, what we do, for the money we do it for. Our friends live vicariously through us. And everybody else hates us for who we help.
    Our career teaches us sympathy and empathy. That is probably not something your friend learned in the military. She also is probably really busy too. With two kids and probably a hubby who doesn't help much, she thinks of you as having the exciting life. Cut her some slack even if she made her own bed and even if she is out of touch.

    I don't know about you Blonde, but me, I love the friends I have because they are a rare commodity. I especially treasure the ones that don't share our career. They are the ones I find listen to my stories and maybe are a little more impressed and make me feel really good about myself when I am feeling down.
    I wouldn't trade my old friends for anything. Not because it's good to have old friends, but becasue on cold lonely days, I remember that they are the ones who I shared my times with. They conspired with me and we grew and learned together. They were there during first loves and first heartbreaks. They know about the HS play, and the time we posted a Playboy centerfold on a geography board, and thought giving the teacher a heartattack was the funniest thing we ever did. They remember playing with my first dog, and my Father's voice and other friends who we won't be seeing till after the ends of our days.

    They remember nites cruising in our old beat up cars that had far more memories and character than the SUV's we drive today.

    They remember us awkward, when we were not so polished. Sometimes they remind us of those times so that we don't become too high and mighty, other times they recall those days in awe, as they remind us how far we have come.

    In all, old friends are a time capsule that we get to reopen for the price of a phonecall, or the time it takes to jot an e-mail. Overlook the small stuff, and you get to enjoy the rest.
    TLD

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  2. I'm also a bad keep-in-toucher, and while I used to feel guilty about it, I recently changed perspectives. Best friends forever (in a real sense) are extremely rare, and most people change enough as they grow up that their friends evolve to match their life situations.
    I think a lot of people place undue emphasis on maintaining friendships for long periods of time, when in reality, it's probably more important to have genuine understanding than longevity.
    Good luck, that's an awkward situation.

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  3. "They remember nites cruising in our old beat up cars that had far more memories and character than the SUV's we drive today."

    Don't worry, I'm still driving my first car. ;)

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  4. I'm also a lawyer (civil) and work for myself. I don't have any kids, and couldn't imagine having them. I also don't have ANY friends from school--none--not even law school! My friends are the mostly other lawyers I've worked with, and I have one friend who I met 25 years ago and lives 3000 miles away from me.

    I don't WANT to be friends with any of those people I went to school with. Once a high school friend got in touch with me through email, and I was in law school at the time. I think I told her that I planned to use my law degree to defend criminals and decriminalize drugs. That was the end of that! Never heard from her again. What a jerk!

    Consider that your friend may not like the fact that you're a criminal defense attorney. It seems like most people can't wrap their minds around the idea that what you're defending is the Constitution and preventing a police state. I'm sure your friend thinks she's superior because she was defending the USA! and raising two children. She thinks her entire life is a sacrifice for good, and there you go mucking it up by defending criminals.

    Personally, I would lose her like a bad habit. There is nothing special about the fact that you went to school together. She's changed and moved on. I think you should too.

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  5. Having childhood friends is awesome, and it brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.

    But I know with my high school friends, there's just such a huge gap between us now. I mean, some of them never even finished the college in our hometown, let alone go on to post-grad education or ever think about leaving town.

    They're often impressed with stories of far and wide, but the main thing we have in common are those high school memories, like That Lawyer Dude was talking about. Like who dated whom, and whatever happened to Joe Schmoe who played clarinet or whatever.

    My point is, it's lovely to keep childhood friends, but I don't think keeping the friendship just because you think you should have one is a good enough reason to do it. Especially if she makes you feel guilty or defensive about the life choices that you have made. It seems like she's grown into being kind of judgmental, and that's just not cool.

    The other idea - maybe you cold talk to her about it? She might feel the same way, and then it wouldn't be any big loss to either of you.

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  6. Why not wait a few days, call her, chat for a little while, and then tell her that her comment made you feel like she doesn't respect your life choices. If she launches into an explanation of why she's totally justified in disrespecting your life choices, then no need to continue the friendship. If she apologizes and says she was having a bad day and regrets saying it, then maybe you'll become even closer.

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  7. I'm also bad at keeping in touch. I have one friend now that knew me before college. Until my first year in law school, I did keep in touch with one friend that I met in the second grade. I went to law school in the same city that she had moved to. We thought it would be great - watching soap operas together and hitting the bars on the weekend. But, as watching soap operas together wasn't something I could get away with in law school, I had to cut that back. And in the process, she got huffy. Anytime I spent time with my law school friends and she wasn't invited, I was made to feel like a jerk. She talked about how I felt I was so much better than her and that I had forgotten "where I came from."

    The thing was, though, that she didn't *like* my law school friends and she was pretty jerky to them. It was an awkward situation all around, so I just stopped making the effort. I didn't want to always be made to feel guilty that every day of my life wasn't spent with her. I also didn't want to constantly be trying to mend fences between her and law school friends. My law school friends and I could hang out and study. She couldn't study with me, and if I tried to study while watching TV with her, she got annoyed. Also, she *never* made the effort to get together. It as always my responsibility.

    During my third year in law school, I made an effort to get in touch. She said it wasn't enough and I'd have to make a greater effort. She also got snippy w/ my law school friends again. It was ridiculous. I gave up and haven't talked to her since except for one night when some of our old friends got together. I regret it sometimes, for all the reasons That Lawyer Dude pointed out. I wish I had that person who would open up all the memories from high school or fill in the parts of those memories I've forgotten. That person that I knew liked me even when I was a four-eyed braced-faced nerd who wanted to talk about politics when my friends didn't even know who the Vice President was. But, I am now of the opinion that it was she who changed, not me. She no longer accepted *me* for who I was. It hurts sometimes and I recognize that her attitude and actions are probably stemming from an envy that her wage-paying job did not provide her with the satisfaction I received incurring $80,000 in debt. But, the relationship was no longer healthy. I had to let it go for my own health.

    Of course, I luck out in that I had another friend who didn't go to my school but who has been my friend for almost as long. I think I would probably have stuck wth my other friend longer if I didn't have any other childhood friends. So, I understand your feelings. But, is having a childhood friend really worth trading in your mental health?

    So, all that to say . . . I'd give it a day, recognize that she's probably just annoyed with her own situation and taking it out on you, try to make it work but if it continues along this path, know that you're not a bad person if you don't have a childhood friend.

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  8. It is my experience with different groups of friends that 95% of what you talk about with those people is what happened in the past while you hung out with them. For high school friends it is football games, school teachers, and prom. For college friends it is crazy frat parties. That's great, but is not actually a good basis for friendship. Friends should respect your choices, your job, and your life.

    Perhaps your friend made the comment as a kind of joke, but her tone didn't come off that way? If she truly thinks that her life in some way is "better" than yours, or that she is "doing more" with her time, then she isn't a true friend anyways. She doesn't understand your job--or more likely has not taken the time to care about understanding what you do, or what your day is like. Unless she is willing to put forth a little more effort to find out more about your career, and your choices, so that she can gain understanding (and perhaps a little more respect?), I would keep her on the Christmas card list, but not feel obligated to call her every month.

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  9. My best friend of 20 years (non-lawyer) dumped me. She felt that she was a low priority for me and she couldn't forgive me. She still won't. She has problems - health problems that include mental health. But still it's massively hurtful.
    And I think the biggest part of any friendship is forgiveness, because everybody is going to need it at some point. You forgive, you keep going. That's not to say you let somebody walk all over you.
    At least keep her on your holiday card list.

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  10. maybe being bad about keeping in touch is a hazard of being a lawyer, like most everyone else, I have not been that good at keeping in touch either. I think we keep in touch when people (a) make an effort and (b) can be forgiving of the times when you do get overwhelmed by other things.

    I think the issue of having different lives is a different one though. One of my very best friends who I am very close to recently had a baby, and I have definitely noticed our relationship changing. Once the child is involved, their life is the hardest, and what you might be going through cannot possibly compare. I don't know that I can even claim to really be helping that many people (civil litigator here) but I do work hard, and I think it is a valid decision not to have children.

    I guess I'm sort of rambling, and I don't really know what my point is, but in conclusion, I do not think that you should let anyone judge your decisions, and if she is making you feel that way, I do not think the goal of keeping a childhood friend doesn't outweigh that.

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  11. I went thru a period of not being sure that I wanted to be friends with my best friend in life anymore because I was sure that our lives were going in very opposite directions. But in the end, we kept in touch and still see each other whenver we can and we're as close as ever. The thing underlying it is that we almost never talk about the past (always the future), and there's enough real affection and respect underneath it all to be excited and happy about the other person's life. I have one other friend who is like that; We've made completely opposite choices on often times "moral" grounds, but we're happy whenever the other one gets what they want out of life. For everyone else, they usually drop off. There's one friend I keep around sporadically because we went through so much together that I feel bad letting her go now, like it invalidates it. But we'll lose touch eventually--neither one of us has ever really let the other one grow up. In my eyes, she will always be fifteen, and vice versa.


    Anyway, in your specific situation? I drop people who pull the "my life is harder than yours, therefore you have to call me" crap, and have since junior high.

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  12. Hi I check your blog sometimes and this post caught my eye so I read all the comments. After I read through them, I was thinking about your friends snarky comment and I thought to myself yes that's annoying and I wouldn't call her back righhhhht away either. But...
    Then I thought about all the times I've been accused of saying insensitive things to my girlfriends and gotten in trouble. Pretty much I've screwed up and was having a bad day, I was pissed off and I vented! I really like what the lawyer dude said about old friends remembering everything. My best friend Cabby since we've been 5 remembers my Oma who died when I was 13. She remembers visiting her and getting gross donuts and no one else does. She remembers my life long pet who died last year, and well my Mom backed into one of her dogs and killed the poor thing so hey we both remember that. Her and I have fought to keep our relationship alive, she lives in Paris right now, and sometimes I get so annoyed with her because she's so different from me. But at least I know that no matter who I am she'll be my friend and visa versa. It's great to have friends who you have lots in common with too but then what happens if one of you changes. I think their’s something so intimate about relationships that are hard and their worth the extra effort, just like anything good in this life is. p.s I had another friend from high school who started to annoy the crap out of me so much that I totally dumped her and now I regret it. Truth is I couldn't handle the pain she was going through (Mom had cancer) I was too immature and now I always feel bad when I think about it.
    Anyways you've heard lots of arguments now and good on you for working your dream job and loving it.

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  13. I think she's a little envious of you, maybe she feels like she wasted her life or something, whereas you "made something of yourself". In her mind, you are a sucessful, independent professional woman, whereas she has by her life choices condemned herself to a life of drudgery.

    Actually, that little history you related of her life in the military is very interesting, and if true os eye-opening. I never realized the personal relationships between women enlisted personnel with their superior officers was anything on the level that she related. And the STDs?

    If she had the writing skills, and knew how to go about it, that's a best selling book in the making.

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  14. I have a friendship that is so much like this, and I could have written this post (especially the "if we met today we wouldn't be friends" part.) I, too, get lots of snide comments about how I must think I'm more important than everyone else because I seem to think I'm too busy for everyone. I think it's the "who is the better friend?" competition part of it that drives me the most nuts- I called you last time so now its your turn, I'm more busy so it's your job to reach out, etc. It seems like friendships shouldn't have to be about that.

    I finally told my friend that the stress of feeling like she was keeping some sort of tally sheet of all my keeping in touch transgressions was making it less fun to hang out with her. We agreed to meet once a month on a set day for happy hour drinks so we both have something on the calendar and it doesn't get too long between seeing each other. It's made a huge difference, because she doesn't feel like she is single-handedly shouldering the relationship and I don't feel as much like an awful slacker friend.

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  15. Be careful not to be a martyr. I've read some of these comments talking about how "horribly busy" we all are as PD's, and we are busy, but personally I find there's plenty of time in life to call someone on the phone or kick out an email. Or "they just don't understand what I do". Perhaps that person obsesses about what they do and talks about it constantly out of work and annoys everyone. Personally I dont' understand the jobs of many of my friends but have never found it to be an impediment to a friendship. I have several law school friends that are prosecutors that I have no difficulty being close to. I find there's a moral high ground that PD's can crawl up on and I try to keep myself from doing that. (not saying thats what you're doing)

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  16. I suspect that she does feel envious of your life: it probably seems easier and way more glamerous than hers.

    (and it is easier to do the things that you want/need to do for your job than it is to be at mercy of your family responsiblies. Think about family pressure around the holidays. Wouldn't life be "easier" if you didn't have to worry about how you were going to see everyone?)

    I'm not saying your job is easier than her job. I'm saying that being you is so much more satisfying to you than maybe her life is to her.

    Certainly we all make choices in life and have to live with those choices, but it doesn't mean that we don't get insecure about the choices that we've made. Out of her insecurity comes criticism of your life.

    Or possibly you're the defensive one because you feel bad for not staying in touch and then by making excuses about why you haven't, you inadvertently promote the idea that your job is more important that her life.

    Most of us end up occasionally making the people we love mad as we try to muddle through our lives.


    Loving other people enriches your life and gives it a depth it wouldn't otherwise have. If her friendship isn't actually unhealthy for you, it's probably worth making the effort to get over the phone message.

    On the other hand, (or in honor of your client's girlfriend, should I say "at the same time") if it's not that deep a friendship and you don't love this friend, then you can let that be the end of it.

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  17. Another thing, this could be a desperate cry for help on her part. A stay at home mother in lots of cases has to dole out the sympathy and understanding, along with the caring and nurturing, and get little in return. Their children are too immature to appreciate her, really, and her husband may be as well, or "too busy", or even uncaring.

    I wouldn't take this too hard. Who knows what was going through her mind, and in her life, when she made this call?

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  18. Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but I think there is some inherent value in keeping old friends. At some point I think they get to be like members of your family--they're just part of your life even if they have annoying characteristics.

    Also, with a friend who you don't talk to that often, it's not really a huge burden to maintain the not-very-close friendship.

    So, my advice would be ignore her (totally rude and un-called for) comment, or tell yourself she must have meant it as a joke, or whatever, and continue the not-very-close friendship you've had for years. I just don't think it's worth dumping a friend you aren't that close to over something like this.

    And, as for the more general point, it is obnoxious for someone to presume that you aren't legitimately busy because you don't have kids--but I do think that the reason she said it in a kind of defensive way: she is lonely and unhappy, and was weirdly lashing out at you for not calling her back because of that.

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  19. Two thoughts:

    1) People who hold a part of your personal history (and 6th - 10th grade is a pretty harrowing chapter in just about everybody's personal history) are precious and few.

    2) The great lie of "Survivor" is that life is improved by voting people off the island. It's just not true. While I would never advocate tolerating abuse - I think the consumerist assumptions of our culture (I must be totally happy and satisfied all the time) are poisioning far too many relationships.

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  20. I have a different take on your situation. Maybe the problem is the *amount* of contact ... people's lives change, and very often they don't change in ways that encourage static relationships. I've had a number of high school/college friends where similar problems have developed. And, the problems were solved by just seeing one another less- if we only see each other once in a while, we can really enjoy the reminiscing and our shared history. But, we're different enough now that if we see each other more frequently, we rub one another the wrong way. The "I don't really want to call her back" test is a good one ... if you only call when you really want to, even if it's once a year, that seems to keep the love without creating the conflict. Change is part of life. Doesn't make you, or anyone, good or bad.

    And, while I think class issues can definitely be part of friendships changing- high school grad vs atty- these issues also come up in relationships where both people choose to have kids, or get advanced degrees, or both.

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  21. Wow, you are really whining about being a lawyer. You are really HONESTLY saying, "Poor lawyers. They have a hard time keeping friends..."

    Er, youre a LAWYER. People envy your money... and thats only people who a) dont have enough and b) never have.

    Nuff said.

    Get a clue, get over yourselves.

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  22. To compare being a lawyer with being a mother is totally ridiculous. You really think youre helping people the same way a mother does? Do you have a mother? Do you really think what you do is even REMOTELY the same as what a mother does? Prostitutes help people too. So do drug dealers. So does the guy at the toll booth that lets you go through. What gives? Its not that people dont see your choice as valid. Its that people dont see your choice as real. Get over yourself. Because you make decent money and (goodness gracious me) come home TIRED at night you think you work harder than the woman who works at some dead end waitressing job all day??? Have you ever waitressed? You sound like a clueless rich kid.

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  23. Wow, 2 months go by and then 2 anonymous commenter with the same view stop by in a 10 minute period? How weird.

    On one hand, I feel like these things aren't worth responding to - what are the chances that the anonymous commenter (who doesn't like this blog in the first place) will come back. Maybe I could even just delete them without even knowing.

    On the other hand... maybe these anonymous commenter(s) need to be corrected:

    "People envy your money..." I certainly don't make enough money for people to envy. I could have made more being a waitress straight out of high school. Instead, I do my job to help people. (Like prostitutes and drug dealers. I'd hate to see what you have to say about doctors and philanthropists...)

    And, as far as how hard my day is? You show me a waitress whose surroundings are worse than being in prisons all day. And you think there aren't mothers who sit around watching Jerry Springer and smoking crack while their kids commit crimes? You think giving birth makes you a hero?

    Then you say "Because you make decent money . . . You sound like a clueless rich kid." (Neither of which are true.) You seem to really have issues with money. (Strange, because the post wasn't about money at all.)

    You need to get over yourself.

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