Something about waltzing into adulthood makes it feel completely impossible to connect with the people that you hold dearest. Thirteen years ago, we were all right next to one another, packed into dorm rooms and studio apartments like sardines. Happy to fit six to a couch. The connection was inevitable when we lived too close to one another.
“No friendship is an accident.” O. Henry
“I’ll try to squeeze it in!”
“Sorry, I’m too busy. Maybe next time.”
“I’d love to but we’ve just got so much going on.”
“I won’t be able to make it after all—I’ve got a sick kid.”
“I can’t this week, how about next?”
In my first place, there was a time when five women lived in the one-bedroom house in Olathe, Kansas (technically it was billed as a three bedroom house but two of those bedrooms were tiny converted closets in the attic—there was about four square feet of standing room in my bit of the house). Rent was real cheap. Solitude was not. Our friendship tanks were filled to overflowing and it was so hard to feel lonely.
Making friends as an adult is really weird, too. It’s an awful lot like dating but without the Determine The Relationship conversation. Every great friend that I have in my life, right now, started out as someone that I had a type of crush on. The first time that I hung out with my friend Kat, I changed my outfit at least four times before I settled on jeans, a white t-shirt, and a long cardigan (which is what I wear every single day of my honest to goodness life, anyway). So you go on these awkward friend dates and you hope that the other person likes you as much as you like them and it’s uncomfortable AF. But you know what makes it uncomfortable? The vulnerability of it all. And vulnerability is an awesome foundation upon which to build a friendship. So a part of me feels like it’s a good, good sign when things start out a little bit sticky and weird. When it starts to become solid, you’re pretty much in it, together, for a while.
It’s astounding how the dynamic of friendship can change so much between 23 and 33. When I was 23, I’d just gotten my first cell phone but it didn’t matter because who did you need to talk to if they weren’t right next to you? Now, it’s the primary way that we stay in contact with one another. It’s how we check in. And after one of us suggests that we see each other in flesh and blood person, it’s the medium that we use to say, “sorry, maybe next time.” You can hold the whole world in your hand and still feel more lonely than ever before.
You get those “maybe laters” often enough and it makes you wonder if there’s something wrong with you. You start to wonder if you’re being blown off. You start to wonder if everyone’s hanging out without you. You start to resent the people that you really do love and who love you, too. But, man, these are tough times.
This is a busy time of year but also, this is a busy time of life! I’m 33 years old. Most of my friends have marriages and kids—of all ages! Some of these kids are nearly in middle school and some of them are thiscloseto being born. Some friends are starting businesses or moving across country or over seas. Some have parents who are sick. Most of them are grinding at work or grad school to help pave the way for a more relaxing future. It’s no wonder you can start to feel like you’re not a priority in the lives of all your friends anymore. And it’s because things have changed right now. We’re all in the trenches—different trenches but we’re all battling nonetheless. And it’s okay.
Our grandparents likely had friendships that spanned decades upon decades and do you think those people all got together for face-to-face quality time every day of their lives? Of course not. They stayed in touch as best they could. They held one another dearly in their hearts and they caught up every now and again when it was possible. Surely that’s how they did it.
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” – Anais Nin
So I want to say two things:
1. Have grace for one another when you don’t feel like a priority. Your feelings are your responsibility, not someone else’s. And truth be told, right now, you might not be the highest priority—and that probably breaks more than just your own heart. People love you even if they’re at a distance. There is a whole lot of ebb and flow in this life, though. Things come back around. They always, always do.
2. We’re only going to bloom where we’re planted if we are good and watered. Take care of yourself by taking care of your relationships. I know you’re busy—we all are so, so busy. But water your friends and let them water you, too. It doesn’t have to be every day or every week. But every season? at least? Catch up. Go get sushi, together. And in the mean time, send an email or two. You’ll be amazed at how a little bit goes a long way.
What do you do to keep in close touch with your most beloved people between in-person visits? Any recommendations for those that are having a struggle right now?
2 thoughts on “On Friendship and Being a Grown Up”
I don’t know why but this one was a little emotional. Maybe it’s because I remember and charish the time in that little house or maybe it is because I realize how childlike we were and how far we have all come as people with those friendships surrounding it all. I have friends all over the world and have lived so many places. Sometimes the only thing I can do to not feel lonely is charish the friendships I have.
Awe. I’m glad it resonated with you, Alyssa. I’m so happy to have you nearer to me.