I’ll be 35 this year. The first five years of my 30’s have been filled with so many realizations, epiphanies, and clarifying moments. One of those realizations is that the older we get, the more consumed we become with our own lives. Understandably. Every day I’m faced with what’s right in front of me: my work, my home, my family in the home, my family down the street, health, development… It hardly seems there’s enough time in the day to address every one of these areas. So, what about my friends—friends who live in different cities and states; friends who now have their own families, jobs, and goals? As I’m focused on the things in front of me, so are they.
It feels so different than it did 20 years ago when the only worries I had were about what to wear to school, the cutie basketball player, and pulling my weight around the house. Time spent with friends back then was so easy and effortless. We didn’t have the weight of our own worlds on our shoulders. My friends and I would walk the malls, talk on the phone about the boys we had crushes on, and dream about life after high school. Back then it felt like those friends would always be with me. Some still are. Some aren’t.
Not only do my current friendships feel so different than they did 20 years ago, they feel different than they did just 10 years ago. At that point, my friends and I were out of college, working professional jobs, and itching to travel. My 20s were filled with girls’ trips (Miami, Thailand, Turks and Caicos, and The Virgin Islands). My 20s were also filled with romantic relationships. The conversations about boys from 10 years earlier had become much more serious. There was once a time when men could never come between our relationships, but that wasn’t really the case anymore.
The weight of our own individual worlds grew heavier and heavier. Not only that, but the number of friends that surrounded me continued to decrease. It was as if the shapes of who we were becoming as people parted us like an ocean. It’s not a bad thing, and I have no regrets about it. I just think it’s one of those realizations that only comes with time. Often, the older we get, the more challenging life becomes. This is when you see your real “ride or die” friends. Death, children, separations—all things that come over the course of life, but not all things that everyone around you can be there for. I think that says more about them than it does me, and that’s okay.
I was the first one in my main friend group to lose a parent. I was 24 and it was unexpected. All my friends showed up to the funeral. All of them did their best to be there for me, even though they didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know what it looked like either. Then, another friend lost a parent, and there was another round of funerals and support. Then, another.
I had a conversation with my good friend who lost her mom a few years ago. It happened several years after the passing of my own father. We talked about how there’s nothing anyone can really do or say to make it better and about having compassion for the people who just don’t know. Then, she caught me off guard, “After losing my mom,” she said, “I realized that I wasn’t there for you like I could’ve been when you lost your dad.” I told her that I had compassion for her then—and I still do.
Now in my 30s, my friend group is the smallest it’s ever been, and that’s fine by me. I’m invested in fostering each of those friendships. I understand we all have lives separate from each other, so we will never have as much time to spend together as we used to. When friends grow up, they grow together or they grow apart. It’s a later-in-life fact I’ve come to terms with.
How have your friendships changed over time?
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