I remember my Mom’s 30th birthday party. The house was FULL of my parents’ friends. Friends made through my brother’s various sports teams, old friends they made decades before, my father’s students, friends from the neighbourhood, plus many that I could never place. Many of the kids I spent time with were the children of my parents’ friends. However, as the years ticked upward, the number of families we spent time with diminished. By the time I was in my 20s, I could probably count the number of friends my parents had on my hands. At that time, as someone who was surrounded by friends, I wondered how this could happen. Now that I’m twice as old, I’m still asking myself that question as I shake my head and wonder how I ended up in a very similar situation.
When I was in my 20s, I had 4 or 5 distinct groups of friends. I probably had 25 people I could call on a Friday afternoon to make plans for the weekend. There were years where I spent 7 nights a week with friends. Yes, this was when I was in my 20s, was carefree and didn’t have a family. Additionally, I seemed impervious to feeling the effects of subsequent late nights. As all of my friends got older, found life partners (or partners just for that part of their lives) and careers and eventually had kids (or nice cars and vacations…), the inevitable drift occurred. More time needed for family or work meant friendships needed to go on the back burner for a little bit. However, as anyone over 30 can attest, time doesn’t just fly, it vaporizes. The weeks may be long, but the years spin by. Without realizing it, you haven’t seen your closest friends in a year. The illusionary connections social media create can confuse the situation as you know what your friends have been doing. You just didn’t hear it directly from them. It came through a Facebook Filter. Not to blend these two topics, but social media is a double-edged sword – without it, we might have zero contact with people who aren’t within a reachable proximity.
How do I, instead of having the relationships I care about wither on the vine due to apathy, find MORE friends? The answers I currently have are in two parts. The first solution is easy to write, harder to implement. Double my efforts to SEE friends. The problem with this is that you need to match up your spare time with someone else’s. Some are busier than me. But that won’t prevent me from asking. To bring another previous post topic into this one, this is actually made harder by my sobriety. Bars are super easy meeting spots for catchups. It’s easier to commit to a weeknight drink than coffee. And I am only willing to buy a max of two $5 club sodas. Most of the hangs I have are around dinners. Lucky for my friends, I’m now really good at making pizza, so plans with me increase your odds of pizza exponentially. As well, for those friends who live out of town, it’s important to get in touch not on social media or text message, but via the dreaded phone. I don’t know when most of us started preferring a quick text and discouraged phone calls. Remember those, the form of communication where you hear the other person’s voice AND tone? So you can better understand what exactly they mean? Well, sorry, friends. You’re getting phone calls. Please don’t just send me to voice mail or text back “Hey, what’s up?” or “Send me a text”. If you answer the phone, we’ll be able to talk about pizza.
Another part of this is not just about maintaining the in-play relationships, it’s also about finding new friends. My interests and my habits have changed over the last 20 years. I have a few friendships that were formed over the old ways. And the relevance of these relationships isn’t there anymore. That’s fine, that’s natural. In fact, I have new interests now. For instance, after I became interested in concert photography a few years ago, I found a local Facebook group on the topic and not only did I learn at a quicker pace through this group, I made friends. Having shared interests allows making new friends easier.
The ease at which relationships can end just due to indifference is shocking. And when shame is layered on top of indifference, it’s just emotionally easier to choose to never make the effort. I understand this, having been on the receiving end of it. It’s a terrible feeling, to think that you’ve been the one who cared more about a relationship than the other person. And in that case, you have to move on lest it infect the ones that exist and matter. I truly believe that a life can be measured by the friends who surrounded you. Not just quantity, but quality. I only assume that the memories you can lean on at the end are some of the few supports life provides.