There’s something really depressing about reaching your 30’s and realising you only have about four out of the twenty or so (amazing) friends you had a decade ago. And as much as I believe in quality over quantity, as much as I understand seasons and people – millennials especially – navigating life as best as they can and friendships sometimes dying in the process, to me this is still a difficult thing to come to terms with. My generation loves to perpetuate the idea of “No new friends” yet we’re also the first generation to have mastered the art of making friends on social media.
But in the midst of figuring it all out I discovered a few things over the past few years that I wouldn’t have learned had all my friendships turned out the way I wanted them to. For instance I’ve learned that regardless of how amazing a person is as an individual, things between you and this person can still turn sour if the foundations are wrong. In any relationship, the foundations always affect the dynamics. And you never know how toxic a friendship is until you step out of it and look at it from a distance, with a fresh pair of eyes. There’s a huge amount of retrospective work that needs to take place before you can fully appreciate where things went wrong.
Life has also taught me that a desperate need to fit in with various friendship groups will have you form unhealthy bonds with just about anybody, very often at the detriment of your mental health. I’ve learned that building meaningful connections is a two-way thing; lack of reciprocity and emotional imbalance have no place in healthy friendships.
On a more intimate note, I’ve learned that friendships with the opposite sex don’t just require boundaries, most times they require complete withdrawal, and this process can feel worse than an actual breakup. Because let’s be honest… We hear about “boundaries” all the time: A hot topic among millennials and popular Christianese term, quite frankly open to interpretation. I myself have written about boundaries before from my own perspective. But the thing about boundaries is that they’re actually a very abstract and subconscious thing. Very rarely do we sit down with our friends of the opposite sex and decide on ‘boundaries’ and other practical ways to respect each other’s space. I’ve gone through phases in life where I knew such boundaries had to be more than just a mental decision, and that an actual withdrawal from the friendship had to take place.
And then there’s losing friends because “life got in the way”… As much as I hate to use this as a reason why so many of my friends are no longer around, the reality is that life sometimes does get in the way. But only because we let it. By the time I personally realised this, it was too late. Whether it’s career, kids or marriage, I had already let ‘my life’ get in the way of my friendships. This is why I’ve always told myself I could have/should have been a better friend to everyone who considered me as such. I now know that nothing worth having should be taken lightly. Friendships worth having don’t just fade away, they are maintained, nurtured and cherished.
I wish I could tell the friends I lost as soon as I got married and started a family that I’m sorry I let this new chapter of my life erase the bond we had formed. This newfound happiness in my marriage shouldn’t have caused the death of our friendship.
Finally, there’s the conundrum that is ‘seasons’. I find it both comforting and upsetting that some of the people I valued the most in my 20’s were only there for a season. Comforting – because knowing they had an impact at that particular period in my life actually brings a smile to my face. And upsetting because, well, losing people you once shared a beautiful connection with can be difficult. But seasons are what they are, and I’m learning to appreciate them more and more. Be it in my career or my creative journey, it’s an aspect of my journey I want to be okay with. Even in my marriage I go through certain seasons – except in this instance, each one makes us stronger as a couple.
The sad thing is, I happen to have drafted this post the same week I found out an old friend of mine had passed away. She took her own life last month and a mutual friend came to my house to share the news. So the title of my post, though very relevant to every scenario I have listed above, seems even more fitting now. How I wish I had kept in touch with her and been there for her in her time of need. This is a painful reminder that life is precious and we must cherish every moment spent with every person God brings our way.
I won’t make this post longer than what it should be. The topic of friendship has been on my mind for quite a while and I’m glad I found the time to pen it down. How do you feel about your current and past friendships? Is there anything you wish you had done differently when it comes to some of them? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your thoughts.