I was ten when I first went to sleep-away camp. Each day after lunch and dinner there was a songfest. Upbeat and filled with energy songs came after lunch while those with more calm and heartfelt messages came around a fire in the evening. Our stories had lessons and our songs, meaning. It didn’t matter if there were ten of us or two hundred – each night, before breaking from our activity, we ended with a friendship circle. With arms crossed in front of us, holding the hands of the people adjacent to us in the circle – what started with a squeeze from one hand went through us all and ended with a smile. Connections, relationships, kindness, kinship and friendship were of utmost importance then and it’s the same today. The only thing that shifted was all the years in between.
The fourth decade feels different to any other. In this space of true ‘grown up’, I don’t feel that way at all. Do you still look around for someone who is more grown up than you? I do. It’s strange. I have friends with children heading off to university, others planning bar mitzvahs, some expecting their first child, some friends who are newly partnered and others single. There are those who travel the world and others who have never left the comfort of their home state or country. There are those who yearn for more and others who are happy in the space they’re in rarely looking for something else. And I count myself lucky to have friends from various stages of life, some who have stood the test of time and still others I’ve just met. Have you seen things change?
In the age of social media madness, where the concept of ‘friend’ means something exceptionally different in both the real and virtual worlds – the 40s friendship is different from that in the twenties. I cried for weeks when I turned twenty in New York. When I turned forty I celebrated, without tears, in the Maldives. In my twenties I hoped heaps of people would come to my parties and felt disappointed if they couldn’t. In my forties, I am thrilled with messages from friends while sharing a special day with a special someone. Emotions, friendships, relationships, self-awareness, acceptance – so much of it changes through the years. Have you felt things change?
Making and keeping friends was simple in our youth. There was always someone who wanted to play on the jungle gym, hang in the sandbox or play SPUD on the front lawn. There were after school clubs, community groups, sports and family events throughout the year where relationships formed and flourished as days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months. Now, those relationships take more effort. There are miles and sometimes years between visits. Texts and messages have to be returned since you are not nearby to see the head nod or experience the hug. Meeting new people through travel, career, volunteer efforts, family events and more takes time, persistence and desire. Families grow, jobs switch and interests differ. Life happens, time passes and people change.
The collective ‘they’ often claims that the older you get the smaller your circle of close friends becomes. Perhaps it’s because life happens that this takes place. If you’re lucky enough to have people in your life who are there for you when it really counts, you’re lucky enough. Sure, it’s nice to be able to grab a coffee date, take in a movie or hang on a Saturday night – and there are ways to find those people to incorporate into your life (and perhaps they become the forever friends). Join a gym, find a meet up group, go to yoga, take a class, volunteer, travel, take part in events larger than yourself – people are there with whom to connect. And, although those are the people who help the days pass and know about your here and now, the ones who ‘remember when’ never lose their sparkle.
Visits might be fewer and further between than they were when sleepovers were omnipresent. Calls might be less than when as teenagers we spent hours on our land line phones curling the cords in our fingers while lounging on our beds. Video chatting replaces standing on the snack line at university before heading back to our dorms to hang for hours. Reconnecting through that vast landscape of social media can bring those from our youth into present day – who knows where that shared history may lead. There are those that will come into our lives to share a lesson or stay for awhile when we didn’t even know we needed them and there are those who are forever. Traveling, changing careers, blending families and shifts in geography test friendships. It’s not always easy-but it’s always worth it.
Whether I met you at 10, 18, 26, 35 or yesterday…you touched my heart…thank you for being my friend.
“Make new friends, but keep the old….one is silver and the other’s gold”