When you’re little, your parents are your world and they are the ones that choose the people that surround you. As you grow, it starts to be your own choice as to who you let into your life and who becomes important. Your friends gradually start becoming a bigger priority.
As you get older and your friendships take on a larger role in your life, you’re convinced that your best friends will remain your best friends forever. You depend on them to get you through the oh-so-dramatic happenings in your teenage years when your parents don’t understand you. You spend all of your waking hours together. Sometimes your best friend remains your best friend, but things can change as well.
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you lose track of these people when you go off in different directions. Some of you go away to school, some stay home and get jobs, and some you simply lose track of. You will find yourself developing a new group of friends, either in college or at your job, and they can sometimes become your new close friend because you have more in common at the time or are just more accessible. This is okay, too. You can have more than one friend or group of friends.
Once your friends start getting married and having children, a lot of things can change. People, rightly so, have a different set of priorities and they may not match up closely to yours anymore. You may find yourself separated for a time, not only by distance, but by a lack of similar interests. Those friends with children are going to start becoming involved in different activities, meeting new people, and spending time with others that have more in common with them at the time. It happens naturally through school events, sports, children activities, etc. Again, this is normal.
I believe friends are placed in our lives at the time that we need each of them. We have different friends for different reasons. For example, we may have friends from school that we continue to stay in touch with for updates, for a feeling of camaraderie, to remember who we are and who we were. These people are important to us and we should make an effort to stay in touch with them.
Sometimes we meet friends through our children. These friends are great to have when you’re together a lot and have common interests. It’s fun to have these relationships throughout these years. It gives you a sense of being a part of something bigger, you’re able to have fun with your kids at the same time, and it makes life simpler when you have things in common. These friendships also have a lot to offer.
You have the friend that you can hang out with and have fun, you have the friend that you can do kid stuff together with, and you have the friend that you can count on when you need it. When you’re lucky, you have a friend that fits in more than one of these categories. Sometimes you don’t know who is who until something comes along that makes you understand that not all friendships are created equal. For example, I’ve had a few hurdles over the last few years. One friend that I called on let me know that she didn’t want to be involved in my situation and I realized that she was more in the category of a “having fun” type of friend. Another friend, whom I hadn’t talked to in a long time, immediately asked where I was and brought me food, wine, and ice cream and stayed and talked with me for hours. There are friends and there are friends. This is perfectly fine and it’s normal. We all have different types of friends for different areas of our lives.
There’s one more important group of friends that I’d like to include and that’s family. If you’re really lucky and you value it, your family can also be among your best friends. I know that in some instances, it’s a completely separate relationship and sometimes it’s not possible to be friends with family members. However, who knows us better or can support us unconditionally better than our family? It’s not always easy or possible, but something to consider. I count my own family as my very best friends and definitely consider myself lucky to do so.
It’s interesting that, as you go through the various stages of your life, your interests vary, your circumstances and social circles certainly change, but your core friendships are always there. We might have times in our life when we’re not seeing each other as often as we used to. We may lose track of them for awhile, we may have disagreements or different points of view, but they remain our friends.
Some friendships remain stable over time; others come along throughout our life and become more or less valuable. I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life that I have a core group of a few friends that have remained so for more than 40 years! We don’t get to see each other very often anymore and we don’t even talk to each other as often as we would like to or should, but I know that if I called one of these women, they would be there for me. The friend that brought me wine & ice cream actually started out as a work/kid friendship that evolved into an important friendship in my life that I truly value. All of this change is normal among friends and we should value all of them.
This isn’t to say that it’s a natural thing. You have to work at it. Yes, things change, but you have to make an effort to be there. You can’t be the one waiting for the phone call or the email. You have to make the call or send the text yourself now and then. When somebody’s circumstances change, understand that you may not be the main person in their life for a bit, but also don’t abandon the friendship. Be understanding, be available, and continue to make an effort. Things have a habit of coming around again. The people that were important to you should remain important to you. Real friends are the ones you want to keep. Real friends deserve your attention and your loyalty. Just like you want them to be there for you, you need to be there for them. Value these friendships and make the effort. Be the friend that you want to have.