They say that love may come and go, but friends are forever. They say that you can’t choose your family but you choose your friends. They say that friends are for life… but are they? More and more it seems like not.
I moved three times by the time I had started seventh grade. Each time, I though I would have trouble making new friends; each time, it worked out. In seventh grade at my new school, I met a girl at the lunch table that would become my best friend — we said we would be each other’s maids of honor, our kids’ godparents. After 13 years of friendship, we had a falling out over an email two years ago and we haven’t talked to each other since. So much for best friends forever. On the other hand, another friend I met in English class in seventh grade is still my friend, 15 years later, and I can see it continuing for many many more years. I haven’t talked to my freshman year roommate in several years but was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding that lived across the hall from me sophomore year. Five of us girls from my first job in DC became close friends and attended weddings and showers and parties together, and although two of the girls have moved to different cities, and one is now in another country temporarily, we all email each other updates on our lives every few months. A friend I met at my second job moved across the country, but I text with her nearly every week. Yet I almost never hear from another friend I had been close to at the same job.
Recently, The New York Times ran a piece on the challenges of making new friends over a certain age. Although it focuses on people in their 30s and 40s with families, I think those of us in our mid and late 20s struggle with this, too. We also have what the author calls K.O.F.’s — Kind of Friends. There’s the friend you see at happy hours and you catch up with but don’t talk to otherwise. I have friends I met on vacations, some of whom I have seen again, some of whom I haven’t heard from since. There are the college friends that live in my city that I get brunch with once a year and that’s it. I have work friends who know a lot about my personal life and others that don’t know anything about who I really am, and I know little of them. I have friends I was close to for a few months and then our relationship fizzled away, not because anything bad happened, but because of life, and differing interests, and because plainly put, just as in dating, sometimes we’re just not that into each other.
I know people that have had the same friends since they were five years old, or that still see their high school friends on a regular basis. I used to be jealous of that, and then I realized it wasn’t about the time, it is about the quality. One of my closest friends is someone I met just two years ago, and now it’s hard to imagine not having her in my life. For women, we often think about our friends in terms of who will be bridesmaids in our wedding. I don’t know about you, but my lineup has changed multiple times just in the last three or four years.
Just like love, friends do come and go. And in DC, it seems more common than in some other places. In this transitory city, I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of people who have moved for jobs, marriages, and adventures around the country and the world. Working in the digital sector, I have made a lot of “friendships” online, and some of them have translate into real, meaningful in real life (IRL) relationships…while others have just made me realize that they are what they are — online friendships.
For her birthday, my friend Julia wrote about finally realizing that we don’t know what our lives will bring us, in one year, five years, or 10, despite our dreams and checklists, and best wishes. I would have never thought that I would only have one true high school friend at this point, and only a handful really good college friends left. I would have never thought that two years ago I would lose my best friend and my boyfriend (who was also my best friend) within a month of each other.
Whether they are friends for life, or friends for a few months, or just a few years, our besties and our K.O.F.’s and our acquaintances all bring something different to our lives. Some of them challenge us, some of them are our confidantes, some show up when our dog dies or when we’re sick, and some show up every time. Some of them are just the happy hour buddy, or the running partner, and some are the professional mentor, or the person you trade tweets about your favorite TV shows with. No matter who they are or why they came into your life, make the most of them, and make the most of what you can give back — because you came into their lives for a reason, too.