We were sold a lot of bullshit about growing up. There’s not really a more eloquent way to say it.
They told us how things were gonna be, and we grew up to realise that this is not the case. This applies to jobs (or rather the struggle to get one), relationships and particularly friendships.
Everything and everyone sold us on these intense, forever friendships. That you meet your platonic soulmate and stick with them forever more. You grow together, you stay together and that was that. We saw characters in TV show and books meet their friends as a teen, and spend the rest of their lives together.
But now I’m (supposedly) an adult, and I’m realising that this is not always the case. While some friendships last the distance, others sadly slip through the cracks.
But does that really have to be such a sad thing? Can the shrinking of a friendship be something to celebrate?
Let’s find out.
Are you the same person you were at eighteen? Or even twenty-one? Or even five years ago?
The likeliest answer is that you’re not. I can safely say that I was a bloody terror as a teenager and at university. I’m only slightly less of one now…
So if you’re not the same person you were, how can you expect to have the same friends? How can you expect to want to do the same activities that once you brought together?
Some friends grow with you. They change and your newer versions still match in the same ways, or different ways. Some friends grow, and you can still find a bridge between your different selves. But sometimes you grow, or they grow, or you both do, and the gap between you is too large.
You’ll waste time and energy trying to find them through that space, and consistently feeling disappointed.
I used to be quite the party girl, and a lot of the friends I made in university were through those sorts of nights out. But in the years since, I’ve realised I’m much more of a cosy, homebody. I’m less likely to get drunk and more likely to pull out a board game. So when I see these friends, it’s hard to relate in our differences. I feel the need to pretend I’m still that same person, or feel like I’m being judged and considered boring.
So these aren’t friends I see anymore, as we’ve become different versions of what we once were. While other friends from this time have also changed, or see the new version of me and can still find something to connect on. They enjoy their nights out, but come to me when they want to go for a long walk together and drink coffee.
Growing up can meet growing apart, whether that’s emotionally or geographically. Don’t force yourself to hold onto someone who is no longer there. Or allow the friendship to move into a smaller role, one that requires less time.
As we grow older, we begin to realise that our time and energy are precious resources, almost as much as our money. It’s why we’re willing to pay people to do something we used to do, like clean our home or do our taxes. It’s why we begin questioning how we spend it.
I used to see no issue with a night out that lasted until 4am, and sacrificing the day after to a wicked hangover. And while there are still rare occasions that lead to this, they’re no longer a frequent occurence. I don’t have the time to spare, I don’t have an entire day of recovery to offer. Especially with how much worse hangovers get as you grow older.
While I would previously see no issue with meeting up with a friend I was no longer keen on, someone who took energy rather than gave it, that isn’t the case now. I would rather spend that time with a friend who accepts and empowers me, or even spend it alone.
Spending time alone used to be a last resort for when it couldn’t be filled by another, but now it’s often my first choice.
So while I am technically free to see that friend from university who always makes me feel worse rather than better about myself, I’m not going to.
Your time and energy is a resource you can’t get back. And I don’t know about you, but I want to direct that resource towards the friends who make me a better version of myself, and who love me unconditionally. I want to give that resource towards my ambitions, hobbies, and activities that contribute to my well-being.
Something that helped me in realising the importance of my time and energy is creating vision boards. I use the app Perfectly Happy for this, as it allowed me to set goals/affirmations across all aspects of my life, including what I want from the relationships in my life. It made me realise where my priorities lie at the moment, even if that might change. And when I get the daily notification to look over my affirmations and reset myself, it’s a gentle reminder to keep going, keep setting boundaries with friends, keep working towards my goals.
We forget that friendships and relationships are transactional. While you shouldn’t be greedy and take, take, take from a friend, you also shouldn’t be solely giving or accepting less than you want. It’s always worth asking yourself what you’re looking for in this friendship.
Previously, I thought all friendships had to be intense, emotional bonds. I had to feel comfortable telling them everything about me and seeing each other weekly. Yeah, that is certainly not the case anymore.
I am realising that there is a joy in surface-level friendships. The people you chat to at a party but don’t promise to make more plans with. The office friendship you’ll grab a drink with but never see on the weekend. It’s okay to be a lazy friend sometimes.
I have friends who live in London, that I’ll see when I head over to visit my sister, and then we won’t speak again until my next visit. This sort of friendship used to initially make me feel nervous, as I assumed I wasn’t communicating enough or that the friendship wasn’t ‘real’. But now I’ve come to love them.
We have an amazing evening together when I’m there, and then we go back to our own lives. There is nothing wrong with that. We don’t chat in the meantime, but fit all our updates and lives into that one dinner.
Don’t assume a friendship has to be 100% to be real or beneficial, there are many different types of friendships that make up our lives, and surface-level friendships are just as important as best friends, in their own way.
Holding onto friends of the past can lead us to feel restricted to who we once were. But we need to constantly be making new friends, as well as saying goodbye to older ones. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, it means that you’re doing a good job of constantly growing. It doesn’t have to end in arguments or hurt feelings, it can simply be moving forward. And if you feel this way, perhaps they do as well.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
Would you like to receive my top monthly articles right to your inbox?
For any comments/questions/enquiries, please get in touch at:
I'd love to hear from you!