Our twentysomething years will undoubtedly be some of the most exciting and vulnerable years of our lives. Luckily, one of the things that helps us move forward and maintain some shreds of sanity are our friends. The friendships that survive our twentysomething years will most likely be the ones that sustain us for many years to come. Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned about friendship that have really come in handy:
1) Understand – and accept – that people change.
Think of your closest friends in high school. You probably planned to be in each other’s weddings and name your kids after each other and be friends forever. Fast forward to today. Is that still the case? For many people, the answer is no. Life tends to get in the way of those well-laid plans. Maybe you went to college in different states. Maybe you chose to pursue different careers or move to different cities after graduation. But the underlying issue is simply that people change. You have different dreams and aspirations. You have different values and beliefs. You have an outlook on life that is much more tailored to your own experiences. Your friends from ninth grade may not understand that. Why? Because they’ve changed too. Part of growing up is accepting that your friendships will not always look the way you thought they would. If you and your friends can grow up without growing apart, then that’s great. But if not, have the strength and courage to let go and move on.
2) True friendship requires reciprocal action.
Let’s be real: there are times when our lives can seem out-of-control busy. Just trying to keep up with work, significant others, family, and the most basic forms of daily hygiene can seem like an overwhelming feat. So it’s understandable that there are times when we unconsciously place our friends on the backburners of our lives. I’ll call them later. She knows I’m busy – she’ll understand. He’s probably busy too – he won’t even notice that we haven’t talked in a week. But friendship is often compared to a flower, and for good reason. If treated correctly, it adds value and beauty to our lives. If neglected, it will wither up and die. Never get so busy that you forget to make time for people that matter. Send a quick text. Find five minutes to call. Tweet. Facebook. Snapchat. SOMETHING. Friendship requires us to make an effort to show people that they are important to us, whether you live five minutes away or five hundred miles apart. With that in mind, pay attention to fairweather friends. Are you only “friends” when they need a favor? Do they expect you to be available when they need you but can never be found when you need them? Learn how to tell the difference, and act accordingly.
3) Friendship and trust go hand in hand.
This is a big one for me. Ernest Hemingway once said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Being a friend demands a certain level of vulnerability. It requires that we trust another person with who we are. The most enduring friendships in my life have been those in which I can be completely, totally, and 100% MYSELF. I don’t have to pretend to be something or someone that I’m not. I don’t have to get dressed up to see them or try to impress them with my accomplishments. I can just be myself. And that requires that I trust them to not reject who I am. Friendship – REAL friendship – really means trusting someone enough to allow them to see you in your most vulnerable state. It means trusting them to keep your secrets. It means trusting them to not judge you when you make mistakes. It means trusting them to commend you when you’re right and correct you when you’re wrong. It means trusting them to be there when you need a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold. If you can find people who improve your life just by being a part of it, then you are uniquely blessed.
I’m a sucker for a good quote, and another one that I really love is by C.S. Lewis. It says, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” We add value to our lives not with a thousand acquaintances, but with a few close friends who help shape us into the people that we are destined to be. If you are lucky enough to have people like that in your life, never let them go.