An Open Letter to All the Friends I’ve Lost in 2020 (and All the Friends I’ve Gained, Too)

If there was a phrase I could use to describe 2020, it would be “The Great Empty.” I’ve seen this term used to showcase normally crowded places, like New York City’s Times Square or Manila City’s Divisoria, suddenly devoid of people who have all locked themselves up in their houses for the rest of the year.

Emotionally, 2020 has left me feeling The Great Empty too.

friends holding hands stock photo

When so many changes happen all around you that you can barely keep up with, it becomes difficult to get out of bed in the morning with the drive to do anything. I’ve lost my passion for things I used to love. I’ve struggled to keep my focus on work responsibilities. Crippling feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and disappointment overwhelm me day by day that I can’t tune out alone.

Loneliness — my closest friend this quarantine… replacing every other person who has suddenly walked away from my life.

In these past months, I’ve come to the realization that some friendships are difficult to keep without physical meet-ups and constant online conversations. No matter how much we tried, we could not hold space for one another anymore across distances. My heart has hurt from letting these people go, but I’ve quickly accepted that our journeys were meant to diverge in opposite directions, with only the memories of once-upon-a-time to keep inside my back pocket and remember them by—out of sight, out of mind, but there to comfort me on days I choose to remind myself of the happy moments we once shared.

I’ve lost many friends over the course of the year. But it’s alright; I believe that certain people are only ever in your life for the time being, never for long.

What matters is the new friends who come into your life without warning—and yes, even that is possible during quarantine. In fact, I think it only ever happened to me because of quarantine. Interests and hobbies I began to fill my lockdown days with and share online have led me to form new friendships in the virtual world, with people of different races, ages, and genders. People who could be just as desperate for human connection, kindness, and warmth.

Suddenly, The Great Empty didn’t seem too lonely anymore.

So to all the friends who’ve gone: thank you for being here. For whatever reason that led to our falling out, I apologize for not working much harder to circumvent it. I extend my forgiveness to you too. I will not blame the pandemic or a terrible year—it was our conscious decision, silently agreed upon without any explanation or goodbyes. If there will ever be a chance that we stumble upon each other once again in the future, I hope it doesn’t end with awkward hellos or pretending to have not seen each other. (If it does, I won’t hold it against you, just as you shouldn’t hold it against me too.)

Thank you for the joys, the lessons, and the pains. If we one day forget each other’s names and faces, know that I will always look back at what we shared with a smile.

(ALSO READ: Your Friends Won’t Always Be There For You, and That’s Okay)

And to all the new friends in my life, as well as those who continue to stay: thank you for making this year bearable. I am grateful for our tethering that has lasted through time and distances, as well as the comforting words, Zoom calls, and virtual hugs that never go unreciprocated, especially when I’m stuck in a negative headspace amid troubling situations that wear me down within the confines of my home. You’ve kept me afloat when all I want to do is sink and I can rest easy knowing that, whatever the new year has in store for us all, I can push through it all hand in hand with you.

Goodbye, 2020. Hello, New Year.

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