Through the teenage years, and even into our early twenties, being without your “squad” is scary. I mean, think about it, we don’t do anything without a side chick or within the safety net of a social circle. From trips to American Eagle, to going to watch our local Junior B hockey team, we are surrounded with fellow hair straightener and Palm Bay enthusiasts throughout the teens. And we love it this way. This carries on through University, while the things that enthuse us may switch to curling wands and sangria, the notion of comfort in a pack still reigns strong. Then, in the blink of an eye, the blessed thing we call undergrad ends and our friends no longer live within a three block radius. The opportunity no longer presents itself to see each other day after day, hour after hour, in a seemingly effortless, natural symbiotic coexistence.
Suddenly mid-twenties hit and bam! Everybody is in different cities. Everybody is at a different stage of their lives (hello to friends who are travelling the world, hello to friends who are married, hello to friends with babies). Everybody has moved on.
Outside of the security that is ensured highschool attendance or exorbitant university tuition, making friends is really tough. Meeting people, sure that’s easy. Smile at the girl who lays her mat beside yours at yoga, chat up the chick who does your waxing, put yourself out there and join a book club you saw advertised at the library. But chances are, these won’t be lasting friendships as everybody is busy and will flake on those loose plans you made over wine and charcuterie (Anneke, that’s for you).
I’m in my second year of a Masters degree in the same college-town where I did my undergrad. The problem is that going to the bar 4 nights a week is no longer appealing and as a result of the previously described migration pattern of my friends, my social circle has diminished greatly. To be frank, I find myself alone more than I’d ever thought possible. I find myself realizing that I took my friends and family for granted when I was in their midst 24/7/365. As I type this, I’m sitting at my favourite restaurant, accompanied by no one but my pint of cider. I’m that girl. “And will anyone be joining you tonight?” says the server, removing the place mat and cutlery from the other side of the table. It feels like I’m in a sit-com or a rom-com and I’ve been stood up on a date! The kicker: it’s not the first time I’ve done this this week, and it’s only Wednesday. While I’ve always been one to adventure out to see a movie on my own, or hit up the mall solo on a Sunday, this whole eating alone thing is uncharted waters. What I’ve learned is that it’s only as awkward as you make it and if you act comfortable and confident, you begin to feel that way.
But this post is not about being okay with being alone, that will come at a later date so stay tuned! Rather, it’s about friendships in a whirlwind life of constant transition. About holding onto the good ones, recognizing when one is slipping away, and being okay with growing apart from someone with whom you had something real. Safe to say if you’re reading this, and if you’re a human being, you can identify with the three possibilities I just listed. None of us are immune to it!
As a gal who has had a fair share of hard times in the friends department (I’m clearly the common denominator), I have spent a lot of time thinking about these things. I blame myself for seeing good in uninspiring people, I blame myself for letting issues of friendship insecurities resurface from elementary school bullies, I blame myself for getting too invested, I blame myself for straight up being a shitty pal. But I’ve finally come to peace with faith in the idea that growing apart from people is nothing to be ashamed of and doesn’t need to leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth at the thought of their name or the sight of pictures on your phone.
See, our generation wasn’t raised by Frozen… ‘Let It Go’ isn’t as ingrained in us. We get mad at ourselves when we let friendships slip away, we blame ourselves when it feels like we’re fresh outta pals, we feel inadequate when we see Facebook or Instagram photos of swarms of friends out doing fun things, we uproot a false understanding of our flaws when we feel left out or lonely. Fact of the matter is that friendships in a whirlwind time period are hard. We’re all busy, short on time, short of funds, hormonally and emotionally drained from school/job searching/keeping up with the Kardashians. And how hard it is only magnifies when we’re growing as individuals and often times headed in different directions! While social media is amazing for keeping in touch it also boasts a false sense of foreverness in the connections we make. Talk to your grandparents about childhood friends and I can bet they have at least one with whom they are left with just happy memories and a faded class picture. Our lives change, we move on, we lose commonalities, and that is okay. I am a firm believer in people coming into your life for a reason and sometimes that’s a chapter in your book, sometimes that’s a page, and sometimes, a rare few, will make return appearances and end up in the acknowledgments section. Our 20s, perhaps more than any other decade, are a time when things move so quickly and remain so unsettled that this constant shift happens at a rate that is sometimes emotionally tolling to keep up with.
All that to say you're not alone if you find the 20s to be lonely. With any luck it has pushed you to explore other aspects of your life. For example, I've spent the bulk of this school year catching up with family friends and openly admitting that the majority of my friends are currently below the age of 8 or over the age of 40. And I'm loving it!
Worth noting: the interweb is realizing that we need some help not just with shopping and dating and transportation but now, yes, even friends. Come back next week for an overview of the ways we’ve found helpful in all of our loneliness, plus some intriguing new approaches, for finding gal pals in new cities or even just new circumstances!