A longtime friend of mine recently completed a daunting professional study and as a result of his tenaciousness and scholarly work, his study will be published as a book. Both Tom and I are now published authors. I wrote my books when I was in my 50's; he finished his at 61. He was my best friend in high school and he is my oldest friend. When we get together it invariably comes up how surprised we both are at how well we did in life considering from where we started. I’m positive that no one who knew us back then would have bet any money that we both would become published authors and successful professionals.

Both Tom and I are honest with ourselves. We know that our accomplishments in the absolute scheme of things aren’t world-changing. Nonetheless, from the relative perspective of a couple of long shot kids, we both know that our accomplishments along the way have changed our worlds enough to make them worth acknowledging and celebrating.

"It is a fault to wish to be understood before we have made ourselves clear to ourselves." - Simone Weil

And that is the value of longtime friend. We know all about each other—where we started from, our family dynamics, the obstacles we faced, and how we worked hard, each in our own way, to overcome them. On the flip side, we both know of each other’s failures, but we also know the circumstances behind those failures. We can lay claim to this knowledge because we have endured a lifetime of shared experiences. Simply stated, we put each other’s life in context.

As the jokesters say, the problem with having longtime friends is you have to age to do it, but you’re going to do that anyway. The real challenge is keeping longtime friends in this mobile, ever-changing society. Tom and I have lived a thousand miles apart ever since we graduated from college. As much as we try to prevent it, life gets in the way sometimes and we may not see each other for months. That’s why it’s important to keep in contact, even if it is only a quick e-mail to check in and find out how things are going. It would be a shame to have the best reflection of my life fade away because I was distracted by day-to-day busyness.

To keep in touch, every year around Christmastime, Tom mails out his newsletter that mentions the noteworthy things he did during the year. Any time he does something of interest during the year, he logs it into his newsletter draft. When December rolls around, he polishes the letter a bit, and then into the mail it goes.  For my part, I’m contemplating sending out a monthly e-mail of what happened of note to me during the month, or better yet, a handwritten note on nice card stock. These are our “keep in touch” methods. Clearly, a spectrum of ways exists to communicate with longtime friends from texting to actually getting together.

In whatever way you choose to stay connected with your longtime friends, make it a priority. They are your best reflection.

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Jeff Strausser is an author, a playwright, and a freelance writer.  His short stories have been published in various literary journals, and he has contributed articles to various magazines.  In addition, he has written four textbooks for Barron’s Educational Series. Jeff’s stage plays have been performed by high school and community theatre groups throughout the United States and England.

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