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so these are growing pains...
perspectives at pint night
by heather m. millen

We sit around the crowded patio of our favorite pub on a sunny Monday afternoon. It's early enough in the springtime that we cherish this long-awaited opportunity to feel the sun's warmth on our skin and indulge in the soothing sensation of pre-twilite beers. It's a scene we've shared so many times; relaxing, laughing, discussing the day. Just not lately, not anymore. Today we've deemed special. One of us is leaving the pack... really leaving. And in some almost obligatory way we find ourselves back here. A send-off that feels eerily like a reunion. How does something once so customary now feel so contrived?

As we share our stories, updates are needed. More blanks to fill in. "You have a new job? When did that happen?" and "Since when did they break up? They've been together forever." They are the thoughts at the back of our minds that we don't ask. We let the oratory play on. As if uttering those questions will somehow be admitting a failure. A failure to keep up, to be the good friend, to live up to the standards we've established. No one wants to be the one who has let life somehow shade out the details that, only too recently, were fundamental. We're guilty and we know it.

As we look at the faces around us, there's mystery where the comfort of familiarity used to reside. Didn't we use to know what each and every expression meant? What it meant when his voice trailed off like that, or when she crinkled her forehead just so? Life begins to feel distorted and, without warning, we're caught up in scrutinizing every difference between us; the millions of things that suddenly set us apart. The things we somehow missed over the years, too busy with the camaraderie of 'in' jokes, shared sayings, mutual customs, and our own collection of newly-drafted legends. And you start to consider that you're not as alike as you once thought you were, and it's a bit scary. But at least you have the solace of knowing you're not alone. It's in all of their eyes too.

It's not that we're not happy to be here. These are people we love. Co-horts in the misadventures of life, we have shared histories. Memories that make us smile, stories we feel so lucky to have crafted together. Yet individually, we know we're writing our own novels. We feel gifted for the pages we've penned, prideful for the cast we've chosen and ever-grateful for the contributions they have, in turn, made. How can we let them fade from the plot? Yet do they really fit the story anymore? Or have we lost the flow?

The sun is beginning to set and we're in need of another round. Conversation begins to dwindle, and if you listen closely, you can hear it... that treble in our voices that exposes the falsity of it all. As if it wasn't for this scene being so well-versed, so second nature, we'd be utterly lost now among those we've cast as our closest friends. Twenty years from now, will we even bother? Or will life have just taken its inevitable toll? How long will the legends we've created, the folklore we continue to tell, really be enough to get us by? When do voices and faces that have touched our hearts become too distant from our minds to connect with our souls? Does growing up just really mean growing apart?

Bittersweet, the taste of your last pint still lingers on your lips. You close out the tab. It's time to go.


Heather has a penchant for drama, both personally and professionally. She secretly wishes people spoke in song and wholeheartedly believes that everyone deserves a standing ovation now and again. She finds it appalling that people reserve champagne only for special occasions, when champagne is clearly best on a Tuesday, while riding the subway, accompanying a slice of kick-ass pizza.

more about heather m. millen


kiss my karma!
your not-so-celestial guide to 2003
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 1.17.03

high school & the promise it held
by heather m. millen
topic: general
published: 8.29.03


tracey kelley
4.1.02 @ 11:03a

Isn't this just the way it goes? People passing through your life - social moments and connections that seem to crackle with intensity one moment, only to fade out like a radio signal a year, two years, five years later.

Especially when you move. I always said that I was lucky if I kept one friend from every place I've lived.

adam kraemer
4.1.02 @ 11:50a

Well, isn't the whole point of friendship either mutual advantage and/or shared history?

If you no longer have anything in common with someone, then you either have to create new experiences or move on. And it's not always this melodramatic; one assumes that as you shed old "friends" you make new ones.

roger striffler
4.1.02 @ 4:48p

I'm sure I've said this before regarding another column, but...

I think that people come into our lives for a reason. There is something we learn from our experience with them. I think the crackling intensity, as Tracey calls it, is to draw our attention to the person, and ensure that the relationship blossums and the lessons are learned. Afterwards, many fade out of our lives basically because their job their is done, and that's ok.

On a related note, I think that the sadness we sometimes feel at this parting of ways is caused either by a) the realization that we cut things off for foolish reasons, or more comomnly b) because we had expectations that our time together would be longer than it turned out to be.

jack bradley
4.1.02 @ 5:30p

No, Roger. You can not have my Bud Lightâ„¢.

tracey kelley
4.1.02 @ 7:01p

Jack - DA HA HA HA!

But I like it when Roger is a squishy puppet.

roger striffler
4.1.02 @ 7:44p

Leave me alone. It was a long weekend. I get emotional when I'm tired. Shut up.

I'm telling mom...

heather millen
4.2.02 @ 8:47a

I whole-heartedly agree that people play important (though often fleeting) roles in our lives, and no matter how that role comes to a close, they're contribution is one you appreciate as you move on.

But while you're excited for what comes next, there's still what gets left behind. It's not always that there's nothing left in common. As Roger puts it, most commonly we do expect those people to be a part of our lives longer than time allows.

So I guess that's where I see the "bittersweet" aspect.

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