ON AVERAGE, a person lives, give or take, seventy years depending on which part of the globe and income bracket you belong to. If you live in a city, chances are you will meet many new people throughout the course of a day.
A few of these encounters, maybe three, will be meaningful enough to start a friendship. Given that from the age of five, a person supposedly retains the capacity to remember and value these encounters, we can say that every one of us has the potential of having approximately about seventy thousand friends in a single lifetime.
Of course, only a pathological extrovert will probably have the energy and the drive to nurture just a fraction of these many social encounters with people and elevate these to functional friendships. The more introverted among us consider this prospect actually harrowing and disconcerting. But it is from this large pool of human encounters in our lifetime, with people whose total number can fill a large stadium, that we eventually pick the handful that we call friends.
My grounding in Sociology won’t allow me to ascribe complete freedom to human will. Our choices in life are always mitigated by external circumstances. Friends, to a certain degree, are not chosen but instead are given to us by our contingent situations. That is why, even if I want to, it is difficult for me to be friends with the Ayalas, Gokongweis, or the Sys while it would be easier for me to know of the tobacco farmer who is my neighbour. But it does not mean that we do not work on these friendships that we make.
It is precisely the amount and quality of labor that we choose to put into certain special relations that distinguishes these from the rest of our social encounters.
Friendships are also bittersweet because they are time-bound and have geographic limitations. I still remember the friends that I had in Kinder because, I guess, the social imprint of our first friendships last longer. These are the people outside of your family that treated you as such. But sadly, since those childhood days many decades ago, I have lost touch with them because our family moved to the province with the growing political unrest at the capital at that time but I still remember them fondly.
And there are many friends like this that one acquires over time. They serve as passing markers of a life’s demographic shifts that one can look back on and smile for the wonderful memories created. But there is no mistaking that they belong to the precious past.
As one grows older, remembering these friends bring warm fuzzy feelings. But on occasion, one only gets to remember them when you get to know that they are sick, dying, or dead and they shore up deep feelings of regret and sadness. If only one can turn back time to make that meet-up happen, or that phone call made before it was too late.
However, the struggle of friendships against the challenges posed by time can be aided by the marvelous benefits of communication technologies nowadays. Our parents’ generation did not have the benefit of the internet, neither did they immerse themselves in social media that these new technologies allowed.
In contemporary times, it is now possible to look up friends from another era who reside in different time-zones and rekindle the friendships, taking off from where you left it decades ago. But I understand that this is also a two-edged sword since this can also make you accessible to people you want to move on from. I believe this disadvantage has caused many to leave social media in droves especially the more discriminating and introverted ones.
But I am writing this to give honor to that special kind of friendship that survive the test of time with or without the aid of technology. You just know in your hearts that no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, no matter what divergent fates we may have been dealt, even without the internet, the bond remains strong and constant. It sure helps that through social media, we can see our shared victories in family life and careers while our failures privately discussed through the personal inbox.
This is for you, friend, who, instead of basking in the full experience of the most recent U2 concert at the Madison Square Garden, hoisted up your camera phone capturing highlights of the event for almost an hour for friends back home to see. It was an appreciated gesture by the gang who could only wish to be there, a wish granted by your millennial-like behavior. This is for you, friend, who scoured the garage and estate sales and sent me a box of vinyl records because you know I go crazy over these kind of stateside things. Thanks to the two of you and others for your sweet gestures of friendship and hope to see you soon.