Friendships. When To Let Them Go.

My journey in the criminal justice system has been going for almost 15 years. While the most difficult portions of the journey are behind me, a recent event has served as a reminder that it’s never really gone for good (even if it’s just lingering in my head). It has also challenged my concept of friendship, causing me to rethink what the term really means to me.

I suppose a good definition of friendship can be summed up as ‘a mutual bond or relationship based on shared experience’. There are so many different circumstances under which we form these bonds: someone you grew up with, a former HS or university classmate, a close work colleague, former partners, former spouses, and yes, even those who you serve time with.

A little while ago I read that my old boss Matthew had passed away. I was pretty shocked and saddened by the news of his death. He was only 79 years old. I still picture him in my mind’s eye as young and vibrant. He had been the president of the ad agency where I worked as CFO for 15 years. I left in 2005. He and his partner, who was the CEO, had been the ones to hire me. I truly liked him and I admired his accomplishments.

Perhaps his passing got me thinking about my own mortality and about the shortness of life, so I decided to reach out to two friends/former colleagues who I worked with. Both were with the Company when I left in 2005, but are no longer there now. Once my legal issues became public, when many friends and colleagues cut me off (understandably), these two did not, and the three of us have kept in touch over the years.

In my text, I said my hellos, and asked how they were doing. It had been a bit over a year since we last talked so I shared a few recent life events about the kids and me. Then I communicated the sad news of Matthew’s passing.

I had expected that this news would give us the opportunity to check in with each other once again, to reconnect over a time and experience we had all shared. It didn’t quite work out that way. From one, I got no response. Nothing. From the other I got, ‘Sorry to hear he died. Hope you are well.’ That’s it.

There was no Hi Bill; no how are you and the family. No hint of any desire to share anything. These were not responses I had expected from friends. These were some of the very few people, outside of my family and my White Collar Support Group, with whom I had shared my criminal justice issues. As many with similar experience know, it’s deeply personal, but I felt safe sharing it with them, and they always seemed supportive. 

To be fair, people are at different points in their lives and certainly a lot has changed. There are things going on in their lives about which I have no idea. Perhaps our old boss’ passing didn’t touch them like it did me. I know It’s not necessarily a reflection on me, but still, I felt rejected once again. A powerful feeling that I thought I had overcome.

Many life events leave you with more questions than answers, and this was one of them. Times have changed too and maybe this is how the world is today – so many ways to be connected on the surface, but few deep and meaningful relationships.

I had been hanging on to this last vestige of my normal past. Life was telling me to just let it go. I did.

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