When I was a kid, my best friend’s mother used to promise both of us that “sometime” we could have a weekend sleepover at my friend’s house. Every time we saw each other we’d run to her mom and beg and beg to be allowed to spend the night, and every time she’d say, “Not today. But we do need to do that sometime.” She used to lay out all the fun things we could do when “sometime” happened: games, a movie, nail polish, pancakes for breakfast, the whole shebang. I banked on that “sometime” plan. I knew it would happen. But three years passed, my dad got orders to a new state, we moved away, and the promised sleepover never happened. I never saw my best friend again.
And yeah, now I’m twenty-six years old living with this gnawing, repressed desire for that sleepover.
In all seriousness, though, I learned something from that experience. (And no, it’s not “never trust your best friend’s mom.”) It’s a simple lesson, really, and one we all know by heart even if we don’t know quite what it means: Don’t take your friends for granted.
That means, in short, don’t assume your friends and loved ones will “always be there” for you. It’s one of those sweet, meaningless clichés we tell ourselves, maybe to lend some sense of stability to our personal worlds. It may be cruel of me to mention it, but here’s the simple fact: People can’t always be there for you; it’s the nature of humanity and this temporal place we live in. People come and just as quickly, they go. It’s the way we’re made. There’s a time for meeting and a time for parting. Sooner or later, in every relationship, you’re going to reach that good-bye where the next “hello” won’t be happening until heaven, because even if your friend is as solid as a rock, ultimately you’ll be parted by death.
Don’t put off the relationships that matter to you until “sometime.” Open up your planner and ask, “How about next week?” And don’t assuage your guilt over neglected relationships by saying, “Well, she knows she can count on me if she ever needs anything.” (You can also count on EMTs, police, and roadside assistance. Somehow I don’t feel cherished by people who insist that the proof of their undying love is in their claimed willingness to come rushing to my aid in the event my world falls apart. Honestly, if my world does fall apart, the last person I’m going to call is a friend or even a family member who hasn’t been able to give me the time of day in months or even years.)
“Sometime,” repeated often enough, becomes “never.” Just a non-promise, unkept.
The people we love deserve better than that.