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Finding comfort in the friendships of the past

Time slows down in COVID-affected times and becomes elastic. What happened decades ago feels like yesterday and what happened last week feels like a month ago.

The future is unknowable, hidden by murkiness, dictated by where the virus travels. We cannot plan ahead and so find ourselves musing on the past and contemplating reconnecting with old friends.

Reconnecting with friends.

Reconnecting with friends.Credit:Dyson

Child and adolescent psychologist Fiona O’Connor says there will be mixed motivations for seeking to re-establish old relationships: “Loneliness can be a real driver, particularly for single households and those not connected in local communities. Memories of loneliness can also attach themselves to our thoughts in lockdown, making us have to cope with current and past feelings of loneliness.

“This makes us reach out to others associated with that earlier experience. Boredom, curiosity and having the space to reflect on our lives are also drivers to reconnect.”

I rang an old friend out of the blue, from university French classes, decades ago. On the phone, after all these years, it was as if we had just finished a class and headed to the cafe. Sure, the topics of conversation had changed, no longer about funny things in class or weekend plans but rather about parenthood, but otherwise we were the same, our connection as strong as ever.

Friends have tracked each other down during the pandemic.

Friends have tracked each other down during the pandemic.Credit:Jamie Brown

Coincidentally, three days after renewing contact with that friend, another dear friend, from law school days, sent an email to my place of work.

The subject of the email was “Melissa”. It began: “I am an old friend (unfortunately now time and age) of Melissa’s and have…been trying to find a way to contact her for way too long now…”

We had not seen each other for 12 years and what followed was a delightful exchange of emails, filling in the events of the intervening years, while the affectionate informality of the emails revealed our underlying friendship was undiminished by the passing years.

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