When I was in my early 20s, I had a friend named Karen (name changed). We got along so well because we had tons of similar interests; she was hilarious, made me laugh and was never boring. We could hang out for days in a row and never get tired of each other. Friendship with Karen was the best … until it wasn’t.
I enjoyed my friendship with Karen for years because, for the most part, I got so much joy from our interactions. I had fun and she fulfilled a need in me. For reasons I won’t go into (because it will make a long story even longer), I stopped speaking with Karen because she crossed a line with me. This happened eight years ago and I haven’t spoken to Karen since. I made peace with the end of that friendship, yet she still pops into my mind every now and then, especially when I find myself facing similar people and situations in my present life (amazing what the subconscious will do).
Since my friendship with Karen, I’ve had several meaningful relationships and friendships. I got married and then divorced. I’ve had close friendships with people in San Diego, as well as in my new home in Indiana. These relationships have their ups and downs. Some have lingered and some have gone by the wayside. And some are deeper than others.
I’ve talked extensively to my therapist about the concept of friendship, and the relationships I’ve had that have changed over time. Some of these changes have troubled me more than others and I was struggling with understanding why I was experiencing foreign emotions with people that I had not before. Why was I suddenly seeing people in a new light?
My therapist shared with me a poem entitled “Reason, Season, or Lifetime.” The anonymous author writes that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
When someone enters your life for a reason, it is to meet a need and for the reason you need them to be there. And then without any wrongdoing, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. What we need to realize is our need has been met, this person served their purpose, and now it’s time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a season because we need to share, grow or learn something new. They bring you an experience, give you peace, make you laugh or teach you something. It is joyful and it’s real, but it’s only for a season.
Finally, lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons. These are things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in another relationship.
Reading this poem changed the way I look at friendships and the people in my life. I realized that every person, every friendship and relationship I have serves a purpose and important reason. Every person is here to teach me a lesson, help me grow and fulfill a specific needs.
Some of those relationships/friendships will never go back to what they were in the beginning, because I don’t have those same needs anymore. I’m not the person I was when that friendship first started. And that’s okay, because in order for us to grow and evolve, we need people to serve those roles and give us the opportunity to learn those lessons.
The difficulty, however, lies in society’s idea that friendships and relationships — especially marriage, but also family bonds — are “supposed to be” forever. And change is scary and hard! I could have easily stayed in my marriage; a relationship where I was not happy, but it was “safe.” The future was certain and I didn’t have to be scared of the unknown and what change would bring.
Yet change is inevitable. Growth occurs whether we want it to or not. And it happens every single day, all around us. We see it when the sunny day turns to clouds of rain. We see it seasonally when the leaves on trees turn brown and gold in autumn, fall to the ground and grow bare in winter, and then return to green in the spring.
We post Facebook photos of our kids on the first and last day of school and the most common remark is, “Look how much she’s changed!” We think nothing of it when our kids outgrow certain friends. So why wouldn’t adults, friendships and relationships also be expected to change?
Life is change. And we need to grow and move on, so we can continue learning life’s lessons and put those lessons to use in other relationships and areas of life. We don’t have to stop loving the people that have been in our lives for reasons and seasons and lifetimes. We just need to embrace what they’ve given us and continue to grow.