Student Blog: How Do We Stay Old Friends?

A reflection on friendship through the lens of "Merrily We Roll Along"

Student Blog: How Do We Stay Old Friends?
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Student Blog: How Do We Stay Old Friends? I have a lot of emotional ties to the musical “Merrily we Roll Along,” and I think I realized that as I was watching it, in real time. Which made it all the more surreal and otherworldly. It was an experience that quickly became reflective. 

The circumstances that surround how I ended up in the Hudson Theatre for a Wednesday matinee feel cosmic. I had taken a trip to Philadelphia with my dad to visit my sister, and in the process I slightly suggested the idea of heading to New York to see the one show I was truly dying to see. To my surprise, my dad was all in. We bought the train tickets, and then the show tickets, and I had a sleepless night before stressing over the things that could possibly go wrong. When we made it into the theater, I felt the most ethereal relief. I had already reluctantly come to terms with the fact that it was unlikely I’d ever see the show, yet there I was. 

Someone I heavily associate the show with is my roommate. We became friends at a time when I needed a friend the most I've ever needed in my entire life. She became the exact person I needed and had longed for. At a time that was so lonely and full of change, she became a constant. We listened to “Merrily” together a lot this semester. any time she was doing schoolwork and I had intruded into her room, mostly to bother her, she’d turn on the soundtrack (eventually, usually after cycling through a Starkid musical or two). We'd joke around and imagine the choreography and I'd dramatically recite every word of “Growing Up” to make her laugh while thinking about how much I value her and I'll miss her when she moves away. I'd make a funny face at her to keep the jokes flowing and to remind myself she’ll never be that far, not really. 

We encourage each other creatively. She is someone who inspires me to write and (I hope) I am someone who inspires her to act. Since we’re both just starting out and working towards The Industry of sorts, I understand the urge to treasure those friendships, like Charley and Frank’s. It really feels like we are at this point where we are creating things side by side. We may not be directly working together, but it kinda feels like we are.

Sitting in the Hudson Theatre watching the beautiful connection of Mary, Frank, and Charley (but at the same time, Lindsay Mendez, Jonathan Groff, and Daniel Radcliffe), it’s natural to think about the people like that in your life. I thought about my roommate a lot. When I heard the chords of “Growing Up” during the overture, I pictured myself back in her room. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to see it. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have precious friendships I am scared to lose. I want so deeply to imagine us being friends forever. I know what it’s like to drift apart from friends and find them unrecognizable. It’s the scariest thing in the world to lose someone you were once so close to, to see them as nothing more than a stranger you used to share everything with. Especially in theater, you make friends in such a vulnerable environment and become so comfortable around them, just to watch that connection fade over time. It’s a fear that sticks with me in my friendships now, it’s a fear I faced in that theater. 

The director, Maria Friedman, wrote that audience members had felt inspired by the show to reach out to the people in their lives, past and present, to say how meaningful they are. Immediately after the show finished I thought about how I couldn’t wait to tell my roommate everything about the show and how I thought about her importance to me. How every time I joke around with her my life feels full, how much it means when she listens to me spill my guts, how she is my favorite person to talk to. I weirdly feel that being this honest with people will jinx it. Like there’s a limit on how many times I get to be sappy with my friends before it starts to lose its meaning. To say we’ll be friends forever can feel like an empty promise when you’ve experienced loss of it before. My mom asks me a lot if I’ve kept in touch with certain close friendships from over the years. The answer is usually no, she’ll be disappointed, and then we talk about something else. 

It feels like such a rare cosmic occurrence when you find someone that you click with. Connecting with people, most of the time, feels like an impossible feat. Until it happens and it feels like the easiest thing. I can be pretty distant when I meet people, (it’s easier to hate them!) so it’s always a bit of a journey for me to get close to people. Of course, it felt simpler when I was younger, it kinda feels like everything was. Nowadays I really see the beauty in finding connection. It’s actually the most exciting thing in the world to me. I hold it close to me. So it feels more strenuous to have lost it. I worked so hard for it, I tended it over the years, and I watched it slip through my fingers. 

When I was younger, I prided myself on being a good friend. When faced with the question of “what is my purpose in life?” my answer was always “to be a good friend.” As I grew older, I felt lonely in the plight of making friends. Part of me feels like I failed the younger version of myself for “giving up” on my longtime friends. Part of me thinks it was inevitable that we’d drift, I should appreciate that I had them at that point in my life, and I should be proud of the new friendships I’ve established over the years. I’ve drifted apart from nearly every best friend I’ve had. It sounds sad, but I don’t think it entirely is. I got handed a beautiful new perspective on friendship. 

I’m scared of saying all these hopeful and true things to my friends, but it’s harder to hold it all in; to hold in the care that we have for other people is to rob them of it. So I told my roommate everything. And we got emotional. And I’m glad she knows how I value her and I’m glad to know how she has zero doubts our friendship will last, and, in her words, “we will be the talk of the town in Westburg's home for old people.”

“Merrily We Roll Along” made me face a harsh reality. Friends change and friendships are lost. It’s an unfortunate and natural part of life. It’s miraculous to find friends that stick around. It’s what makes them so special. It is wonderful to hold friendships as integral parts of our being, and I think even the ones that you lose are beautiful to look back on, how they have the power to change us.

"Thanks, old friends, keep reminding me..."



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