A Low Hum Of Exaltation

I read Emily Gould’s Friendship this fall, and liked it so much I was compelled to make a kind of “fan art” for it, which is below.  I like everything I’ve read of Gould, and find the “controversy” that surrounds her so completely absurd (and sexist) that I will not comment on it further, and will instead focus on what a great book Friendship is.

Gould does an excellent job of showing the way things beyond our control—time, money, circumstance—can slowly corrode relationships to the point where they are irreparable.  With the friendship between her main characters, Amy and Bev, there is one particularly significant life change (spoiler: a pregnancy) that strains the women’s relationship, but it’s the accumulation of many other small, unspoken things that make the big change so difficult.

In addition to the quotes I’ve pulled for my “fan art” there were a number of other quotes from Friendship that resonated with me.  This one especially seems to describe the reasoning behind the bad decisions many people make in their twenties:

“She still felt full of strange pockets of conflicting feeling . . . But underneath everything ran a low hum of exaltation.  Things were happening to her.  They were bad things, but at least they were happening.”

I’ve felt that.  It’s the itch that’s caused me to not live in the same apartment for a full twelve months for the last eight years.  Caused me to attend a college and a graduate program in states I knew next to nothing about.

It’s not necessarily bad.  Sometimes it’s great to push past comfort zones, to try something new without understanding all the details.  But—as is the case in Friendship—sometimes these decisions turn us into new people, barely recognizable to those who once knew us.  In her essay collection, And The Heart Says Whatever, Gould describes her sporadic catch-up dinners with an old friend:

“Sometimes these dinners are full of easy intimacy and intense teenagerish simpatico-ness, and sometimes they are as awkward as first dates, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to figure out.”

I’m twenty-six right now, a number of years out from both high school and college.  It’s been odd to find out which old friendships remain easy and comfortable, and which, for whatever reasons, just don’t.  Friendship is a smart, lovely book, and excellent ode to that.