Proximity Friendships

Story by Ellie Nakamura
Print Managing Editor

I’ve realized a lot of the people I know are “proximity friends” — people who only talk to me because I’m around and vice versa. Sometimes I dread the day we graduate high school because it’ll be the end of those comfortingly cordial, mundane interactions, and other times I can’t wait to leave behind the people who remember every embarrassing, flawed person I was as we grew and developed into people we’re hopefully proud of being.

Last week, I made someone cry on our first FaceTime. I underestimate a lot of my friendships because I’m afraid I’ll be hurt if they don’t reciprocate and value our relationship as much as I do. I had idolized this person as someone who was never lonely because who wouldn’t want to know them? I put them on a huge pillar, so much so that I assumed I wasn’t valuable to them at all. We only spent time together when I made excuses to. How could I have known they considered me one of their closest friends? Had I known they were reaching out to me because they were lonely, not because they were bored, I would’ve let myself care more.

My biggest fear is a relationship that only I care about. I never considered the prospect that my protective measure of not allowing myself to care as much could cause me to not reciprocate someone else’s. I thought so lowly of myself, believing no one would want to be friends beyond what is convenient for them, that it ended up hurting the other person. For so long I felt alone and unwanted, when I was the reason for my own isolation. Who would’ve thought holding everyone at arm’s length tends to make hugging more difficult?

As I enter my last year of high school, one of my many regrets is that I’ll never know if my proximity friends could’ve ever been more. All those people I wanted to know but were scared to talk to will remain unreachable, and I’ll leave wishing something happened. One could say it’s not too late, but I’ve lost so many friends that I thought were of convenience that I can only cherish the ones I have now. I’m not lonely anymore, but maybe one day a lot of these friendships will break the proximity barrier and become something more durable. Instead of a glance or quick closed-mouth smile at graduation, we’ll share a farewell over coffee a couple days later and I’ll know that there was a time we were really, truly friends.

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