When I saw International Friendship Day is celebrated on 30 July, it prompted me to think long and hard about friendship. Beyond that, I thought about how friendships change in adulthood and how much my views about friendship have evolved over the last five years. I appreciate this Oprah Winfrey quote:
“Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
Friendship in my 20s compared to my 30s
As life has become more complicated, I’ve relied more and more on a few key friendships. My 20s were a fun time. I started working in my first ‘proper’ job and hit it off with several people in the workplace. Upon leaving that job, I learned the hard lesson that most of those friendships were situational. Outside of work and Friday night drinks, we didn’t have much in common.
I suspect I was bitter after this experience because I spent quite a while after this content with having few friends. I have been lucky because I’ve had a handful of high school friends I’ve always kept in contact with. All in all, however, my late 20s were dominated by isolation. And I didn’t really have any issue with it as that was what I felt was needed at the time. What I’ve come to understand about myself is retreating from people and the world is easy. This is my default position.
The game-changer: personal development
When I turned 30, I became serious about personal development, which has been a real game-changer. I’m now (usually) able to understand why I am reacting the way I am and course correct from a place of embodiment rather than hurt or anger.
At 36, I’ve never valued quality friendships more. The last few years (even the last 12 months) have been intense. These years have been everything from exciting to challenging, disappointing at times, and everything in between. That’s life. People talk a lot about romantic relationships, but we undervalue the importance of having good people in our corner to lift us when life gets messy. Like everyone, I’ve experienced some incredible highs and quite a few earth-shattering blows (to me, anyway—everything is about perception). I have a handful of friends I can reach out to on a 24/7 basis for support. Sometimes they have more faith in me than I do! (That’s me being honest.)
International Friendship Day is an opportune time to reflect on why good friends are essential.
On tough days, there’s nothing like being able to send someone a message. Someone you can trust to vent with. Life can feel like a pressure cooker, and communicating (whether verbally or in writing) can release that nozzle just a little. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve messaged a friend (I’m not a huge fan of speaking over the phone) about something that feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders. And after a few exchanged messages, I feel lighter and can tackle the situation from a different perspective. We all need people in our life who we feel safe enough around to remove the mask most of us wear 24/7. Being truly seen and heard is a beautiful thing.
People can have empathy while also helping you to be the best version of yourself. Our comfort zones are just that—comfortable. Nothing grows there. We definitely don’t grow in our comfort zone. Good friends will listen and be understanding while giving us that nudge in a particular direction we may need. And we know they’ll be there for support if everything falls apart.
Belonging: the profound feeling of “I’m being honoured and accepted for who I am.”
Flow, ease, safety… I would also challenge people to return to their bodies when they notice this feeling of belonging.
- What does belonging feel like in your physical body?
- What physical sensations do you notice?
- If you can’t notice anything, can you feel your feet on the ground and start there?
If we have one good friend in life, we are blessed. If we have more, we’re lucky. Friendships change in adulthood because we change. Life changes. It can be harder to make and maintain friendships as we age. Friendships also organically come to an end sometimes, and that’s perfectly ok too. And keep in mind many of us have four-legged friends too. (That is me to the left with my bestie, BB.)
Shunning connection is a safety mechanism for many of us. As human beings, we rely on connection to thrive. I don’t know where I’d be without my good friends. They have stuck with me through many phases. (And I’m sure they’ve bitten their tongue at certain moments too.) Whenever I achieve something, they are there with me, cheering me on. And when I fall, they provide a safe space for me to be who I am—no mask required.
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