I exchanged friendship bracelets with my girlfriends in elementary school, in middle school my BFF wore the other half of my gold plated heart charm, and in high school, we got matching tattoos. Now, at nearly thirty, I am lucky if I see her once a year.
Some say that millennials are redefining friendship. Changing the essence of it; as we are so apparently apt to do. But what is the definition of a friend when you are a working adult with a spouse, kids, and a household to manage? It looks entirely different from the friendships I experienced during my youth.
After every female bonding movie centering on middle age women, such as Bad Mom’s and Netflix’s Wine Country, I have a mini moment of anxiety. Are these the types of friendships I was to maintain? At this point in my life am I supposed to have a ride or die group of girls who have been, and will be, with me forever? Because if so, I am failing miserably.
Ah, the Days of Our Youth
When you are young friendships are cultivated so easily, being forced to see the same people for six hours a day, nine months out of the year has that effect on you. You sit with the same people in class, eat lunch with them, and have sleepovers on the weekend. Typically, your pals are others who share the same interests and are around your age. In childhood, you usually aren’t seeking friendships based on an extensive list of criteria.
In high school and college, your tastes become a bit more discerning. As social circles evolve, some of your friends drift away, and yet other relationships strengthen. You actively look for individuals who share your interests and your values. You need someone who you can rely on to support you and be present when times get tough.
Even in college or university, you are still in a bubble conducive to maintaining a friendship. You may share a class or two with your friends, have them as a roommate, or take part in the same student organizations. Upon graduation, however, those friendships become a thing you must actively and relentlessly work at.
Make New Friends, but Keep the Old
Sadly, as your plate gets loaded up with a career, a family, and adulting, it becomes more difficult to be a friend. There are many guides on “How to Make Friends as an Adult” signaling that this seems to be a recurring problem that eventually requires addressing. I would argue though that it is a struggle because you are expecting the simplicity of childhood.
Well, guess what, no longer are you able to forsake your responsibilities to spend all-day-every day with your bestie. Friendships look different for adults. It will not resemble the constant contact and secret swapping days of your youth. In most instances, adult friendships are ineffable, virtual or otherwise.
I am a part of an online community of moms, a virtual village, and mom2mom groups. We share insights, bond over common experiences, swap stuff, and offer support. Some of these ladies I have not met face to face, but in this day and age, we could be considered friends. In the 21st century, this may be referred to as my “tribe”.
At some point, a select few of your coworkers and your neighbors may transition into the friend zone, another side effect of forced proximity. When speaking to someone about my job, I flip-flop between the word coworker and friend. Is she just my cubicle mate or is she more? Well, we have inside jokes, eat lunch together, and occasionally text on the weekends. So, I am going to go with friends because this is what an adult friendship is and honestly; it makes me feel less panicky about the state of my affairs.
Don’t get me wrong, some people have those precious and coveted lifelong friendships. Myself included. I fall right back into our old and easy rhythms when I get together with girlfriends from my teenage years. We may struggle to remember to text back, say happy anniversary, or invite one another to our children’s parties but all is forgiven and time seems to be erased when we have the rare opportunity to hang out.
You Are Not Alone
Whether you and your friends only interact online, meet at your work-space or are neighbors, I believe you have obtained the modern definition of an adult friendship. Balancing competing priorities is hard; you don’t have to go it alone. Nor do you have to feel inadequate because you don’t have the ultimate posse portrayed in the movies. If you have that lifelong bestie, treasure them. But if you don’t, reevaluate your definition of a friend I guarantee you, you are not a loner.