Friendship in Your Forties

When I was deciding on a college at the age of 17, one of my main factors in choosing Ohio State was that it was an enormous school and I often told people that a goal of mine was to “know everyone there before I graduated.”  Completely the statement of an extrovert that LOVES to meet people of all backgrounds.  And while I definitely did not know EVERYONE come graduation time, I had a wide array of friends, classmates, sorority sisters, and coworkers I could count on to grab dinner with, see a movie, or just late night drinks and gossip.  But let me say in all honesty, life approximately 20 years later could not be more different.  

Between moving around the country, switching careers multiple times, and starting a family, I often find myself sitting at home wondering what happened to the life of the party (that’s me, in case you forgot. I know, it’s been awhile). My weekends have gone from parties and dinner gatherings to sporting events or general exhaustion.  And I get it, we’re all busy.  Kids and spouses are priorities.  But where did my friends go?  I think about the close friends I had in college and the professional world.  Distance, marriage, and kids have pulled them away to the point that we don’t even bother with phone calls, just a Facebook ‘like’ now and then or a ‘Happy Birthday’ comment.  When did our lives and relationships become so generic?

Throwback to a lifetime ago in 2007

I’m told I will make new and different friendships with neighbors or my kids’ friends’ parents.  And granted, I have some awesome relationships through these areas of life, but that still doesn’t give me the feeling of true friendship.  The expansive knowledge of a person and why they are the way that they are.  The ability to show up unannounced because you had a crap day, or calling them at the last minute to grab drinks or dinner, which  rarely comes to fruition.  Is it this time in my life where family schedules are too hectic?  Or is it technology’s fault, too?  Because honestly, I cannot tell you how little time I actually talk to someone instead of sending and receiving a random text here or there.  Is it our busy schedules that don’t line up, and then we just give up and stop trying?  

I binged the show Firefly Lane this last week or so and every single time I watched it I thought, I want that friendship. Through good times and bad.  Just ONE person that is my go to.  And not to say that my husband isn’t, he is absolutely a wonderful part of my life.  But he’s not my girlfriend, and that is completely different.  

I am ranting here knowing I am not faultless in this area.  I have definitely turned down gatherings on occasion because I’m tired or the kids have already commandeered the time.  I’m just simply wondering what the answer (if there is one) is.  Does it mean that we don’t get these deep friendships right now, or are they just markedly different, especially in the time of COVID and political divides? Does it mean the only way I will see many of my friends is through social media or a zoom happy hour?  I really hope not.  

I used to wonder who my mom’s friends were.  She didn’t really spend much time with friends except for the once in a great while gathering when a high school friend was in town.  As I got older I vowed that I would never ‘lose’ my friends, just gain more!  Now I know what she went through as a mom and how lonely it probably felt most days.  And I do think I try to avoid the whole ‘woe is me’ state of mind- I schedule dinners, activities, happy hours.  But it gets exhausting when no one ever seems to invite you back.  And you begin to wonder if the effort is worth it.  Are you the only one not getting an invitation?  Are you the problem?  It’s like being a kid all over again and wondering if everyone is hanging out without you.  I have moments where I wish I was still a kid and I would become friends with someone because we had the same stuffed animal at preschool or both loved the color pink (this is what my 4 year old bases her friend qualifications on currently) It would certainly be easier to ask another mom I meet (or fun new co-worker, or whomever) if they want to get coffee (I don’t even drink coffee) but basically, do you feel the same way I do, and do you want to maybe not feel that way together?