Recently, when I mentioned I was headed out of town on a girls weekend with college friends, Kelsey left me this comment:
“I would be really interested to hear about how your relationship with your college girlfriends have changed over the years and how you’ve handled it. I graduated 3 years ago and my relationship with my college girlfriends has certainly changed. It’s hard to go from spending 24/7 with someone to then possibly only talking on the phone once a month or seeing them once a year. Especially because I moved to a new city recently and don’t know many people yet so I’ve been missing my college girlfriends even more. I was just wondering if you could give any insight on how to deal with the transition process of changing friendships!”
So today, I figured I’d try to answer this, as best as I can — I think her experience is one many can relate to, right?
I’ve gone through several different “friendship transitions” in life. For me, these have happened any time I moved somewhere new, or had a major change in my life (new school, new job, life event that changed me, etc). It’s followed that relationships from high school changed or tapered off once I moved to California; then relationships from college changed once I moved to San Francisco, etc. Here are four things that have helped me as my friendships have changed:
Accept change. It’s not surprising that friendships change throughout life; after all, we as individuals do, too! Look, the reality is that if you go from being roommates with someone to moving across the country, yes, in all likelihood, you’re probably not going to talk to them everyday anymore. It can be sad and feel like a loss, with a void in your life that used to be filled by someone else. I’ve learned to look at it as just one of those things in life, as tough as it can be — as we move on in our own lives, it’s inevitable that our circumstances and relationships might change and evolve. That sadness and longing is okay — it’s normal to feel that way, and there’s no shame in it! But recognizing it is key.
In the past, I’d beat myself up if I didn’t keep in touch with a particular person as often as I thought I should. But the older I’ve gotten, I’ve come to treasure the time I do spend with those people, whether that’s on the phone, in a Google Hangout, or in person. I’ve also realized that the older we get, it seems like the more complicated (and yes, busy) our adult lives can be, so I find my friends are okay with connecting a few times per year to check in. I think we find a rhythm with each individual friendship, but I’ll admit, it can take some time.
Be the spark. All that being said, I also think it’s easy to fall into a rut where you forget to carve out time that will create new memories with your friends. So be the spark! If you’re missing someone, ask them to get together. Just this week, I was on a Google Hangout with some New York buddies. We only talked for probably a half an hour to 45 minutes, but after, I realized how much I had enjoyed it. So I emailed everyone and said, hey, we should all plan a trip somewhere for next year. And everyone was into it! I’m not saying that no one else would ever propose a trip (with this group?! definitely), but this is what I mean — it’s easy to forget to put something on the calendar. Even if we don’t all see each other until late spring or summer of next year, it’s fun to plan something and look forward to it, together. The trip Kelsey commented on is one I take with a few girlfriends every fall (ironically enough, none of which even knew each other in college). It started a few years ago with my bachelorette, and I enjoyed the time so much, I proposed that it become an annual thing, and it has. It’s the one time of year some of these girls see each other, but we always reconnect and have a great time. Sometimes just asking for people’s time is what can keep a friendship going. Also related to this…
Give in to the impulse. I sometimes think to myself, “I wonder how so and so is doing. I should email/call/text them soon.” And then I promptly forget to do it in between 9000 other things happening on a daily basis. I’ve learned that when I have those thoughts, it’s best to just give in to the impulse and shoot them an email or text to say hi. Often, these conversations have led to me reconnecting with friends (and often, spurred ideas for get togethers like a weekend trip!). And sometimes, they’re just simple check-ins, and let that person know I’m thinking of them.
Accept change again. Friendships are so fluid. While you’re going through life and changing and having all these experiences, so are your friends. Sometimes, you just naturally grow apart from people. But don’t be so quick to write off a friendship (which I think can be easier to do when you are very young). The older I get, the more I am pleasantly surprised by friendships that come back into my life, or friendships that are kindled with someone I didn’t initially see it with. We all change and grow, so if you are open to that change and also give others permission to do it too, it’s much easier to cultivate and nurture relationships in your life. There’s that saying that friends come into your life for either a reason, season, or lifetime — but I also think which category a person fits into may not be clear for a long time, or it might even change. Accepting that things may change is really key here, albeit sometimes really tough and even painful as you go through life.
On a personal note, Kelsey asked me specifically about how my relationship with my college girlfriends has changed over the years. To be extremely honest, I was not someone in college that had a huge gaggle of girlfriends I did everything with. A post for another day, but I was not in a place in my life where I could let that many people in or get close/vulnerable with a lot of people. So post-college, it’s been interesting to see which of my female friendships have stuck, and why. I think the key there is that word I just said, vulnerability. Continuing to put myself out there with people I care about — or in some cases, have been interested in getting to know better — has led to close friendships. Sometimes I think it’s kind of ironic that I feel much closer to some friends now, when we only see each other once or twice a year and talk just as much, than when we lived in the same place or saw each other every day. Maybe it’s a change in priorities as you get older too. You figure out who makes you feel good, makes you laugh, makes you feel most like yourself, and you keep those people around.
And if I may end on a note that makes me very happy about the changing nature of friendships, it’s this: recently, I put together invitations for a party I’m hosting later this month. As I added invitees to the list, I couldn’t help but reflect on the various stages of my life that each friendship came from. There were friends from high school (someone I connected with again years after graduating), friends from college (from freshman year, and even friends I made after graduating), friends from when I moved to San Francisco (from culinary school, and my first jobs), to New York friends and new SF friends I’ve become close with even in the last year or two. This is my personal tribe — not everyone knows each other, and some people may even meet for the first time, but thinking about a room with all those people in it makes me immeasurably happy. To me, this is the best part about friendships as you get older: you see where you’ve been, and just how far you’ve come.
Friendships are such a personal thing, since our personalities and experiences shape them so much. Have you gone through “friendship transitions” in life? How did you adjust to the change? What are your tips for Kelsey (and others!) who are going through the same thing?
PS – I wrote a post about making new friends as an adult over here. It’s tough…but it can be done! The comments in this post are fantastic, if you feel like browsing.