I have always been someone who has had a small number of individual friends and a large number of other friends and acquaintances grouped around interests. I remember fondly the happiness I felt when I finally had a stable "group" of friends during my freshman year of college, and although it was a nice change for me, it didn't seem to be in my nature, and the group eventually cast me out. I had as much to do with it as they did, but it did make me sad.
Since then, I have learned that a diverse group of friends is much more rewarding (to me), and I currently run with a bunch of unrelated individuals, mostly including musicians, photographers, and techies. Mixing them up at get-togethers has always proven to be a lot of fun, and I love that some of my more "traditional" friends are often afraid of the crazy musician types, and vice versa. No one ever gets to meet the photographers because most of my time with them is spent out in the field.
Most of the time, things are great in the Echeng-friend world, but every once in awhile I go through a period of mild resentment and wonder why some of the folks I consider close friends never call, and why a drive all the way up into the city to hang out seems to be out of the realm of possibility for South Bay people. So I typically see them by calling and dropping by when I'm in town, because I'm the type who will drive an hour each way to see someone for even a little bit of shared time.
Periodically, I have to remind myself that it is perfectly fine to have friendships like that, and that it just takes a change of expectation on my part. I had a friend back in high school whom I tried to keep in touch with throughout college. I would call him when I was on break and say, "Hey! I'm back in town. Wanna hang out?" And from the other side of the phone call, I'd hear: "... let... me.. call you back." It was obvious that he wanted to keep his options open, and more often than not he would either not call me back, or call back and tell me that he was going to hang out with [closer friend] instead. This made me upset, yet I continued to call, year after year. But one year, I just stopped calling. What was the point? I could just enjoy seeing him if I happened to end up being in the same place, and I would have the freedom of not thinking about him otherwise. I confronted him with my issues, and since then I have been at peace.
But it did take an active decision, and I wasn't used to doing that to deciding the fate of friendship from my side of the fence.
My schedule over the past two years has changed some of my priorities with regard to friends. I have realized that some of them are willing to put inordinate amounts of effort into hanging out with me, especially given my recent lack of (physical) availability. And by hanging out, I mean both physically and electronically. They are the support network I lean upon to get through the time I spend away from home, and it would definitely be much harder without them. So thank you, guys.
Of course, occasionally there is the old friend with whom constant effort is just not necessary. We can go for long periods of time without seeing each other, and it's as it always was when we finally have the fortune of company again.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say, I guess, is that I shouldn't be upset about people who don't reciprocate, especially given that I don't always reciprocate, myself. I suppose it's just part of how friendships evolve. [insert thought-provoking conclusion here].
I also wanted to write that after locking up parts of my journal, I received quite a bit of e-mail expressing hurt and disappointment, mostly from people I have never met and have never had meaningful correspondence with. Despite not feeling any real attachment to those individuals, I felt little shreds of guilt encouraging me to give them accounts. But instead, I crushed those feelings and deleted their e-mails without even replying. Gotta have priorities, right? And juggling life in the electronic and physical world is just going to get harder and harder.