It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When you’re a child, making friends does not require too much effort. Still, as much as I love children, I know that they can be very mean creatures. I know it first-hand, and as the sister to an adolescent girl, I am reminded of it often.

But with similar schedules and mostly innocent oblivion, having the opportunity to make friends is presented to us all the way through our formative years. And somewhere along the way, if we’re lucky we can make really good friends, who when we reach adulthood, start to feel like old friends.

There are many friends that will come into your life – some you will passively lose touch with, some will become more like acquaintances; and yet still, some you will actively choose to no longer be friends with. It’s a reality that we begin to realize in our collegiate years and it continues beyond those years. But your old friends seem to stick around, and no matter how near or far they are, they continue to be a part of your life.

From old friends we learn how much we grow. They’re the people who’ve usually witnessed everything from our major accomplishments to our innocuous mistakes, to the moments we’re least proud of. They told us to do better and sometimes they forced us to do better. And we know that if we’re happy with who we’ve become, they played a role in that process. From old friends we recognize that life and people and things aren’t meant to stay the same.

There is a freedom that comes with old friends that newer friendships can sometimes fail to bring. There are no impressions to be made with people who know you well. There are few filters to send your thoughts through as you engage in conversation. There is a great comfort that comes with knowing that a friend has loved you for a long time; and that this person who doesn’t have to, continues to love you anyway.

With old friends there is often great laughter about the shared history of your pasts. And in your youth, pasts are often filled with many playful instants but also careless choices. There is a solemn recollection of the difficult periods that you have been through. There is an understanding of how you came to be who you came to be.

With old friends, you realize true friendships are difficult to create, to cultivate, and to hold onto. And the profound gratitude that you have for having a friend long enough to call them an “old friend,” feels wonderful.

Old friends hold a mirror in front of us and allow us to see how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go to be the person we can be. Old friends show us a reflection of all the parts that we still need to change, and some of the parts we’ll hopefully never change. Old friends remind us that the past was both good and bad, that the future is something to look forward to, while keeping us grounded in the present. And no matter the passage of time, when we’re with our old friends, we have a feeling of home – a place where we can be stupid with people who love us.