Holding on to the Friends Who Matter
And learning to let go of the ones whose time it is to leave
As we get older, we tend to lose things: Hair. The ability to recover from a hangover. Our minds.
It’s one of those shitty consequences of growing up that no one warns you about until it’s happening.
Friendships, like metro cards, are vitally important to hold onto but sometimes, without even realizing it, they become misplaced and lost. You can’t keep everybody.
Life gets inside the small fractures in our relationships and creates chasms we can no longer hurdle; things like living in different cities, opposite schedules and shifting priorities all widen the cracks.
It’s daunting and sad to think that the people you surround yourself with now may one day be the distant acquaintances you’ll introduce your children to during a coincidental run-in at an obscure location that only the magic of statistics can explain.
But it’s also not a terrible thing.
Letting go of certain friends as we get older is healthy. We want to be friends with people who share our values, who make us feel whole, who challenge us and who respect us. These things aren’t static. They change as we change.
Certain friends will become “friends” as their reactions to life’s obstacles show us facets of their personalities that we can’t un-see. They’ll fail to call when we need them most, disapprove of someone new in our lives, make decisions or form opinions with which we’ll never agree.
So we shed these “friends” to help us grow and to make space for the new ones. The ones without quotation marks. Ones who build us up, give us strength, make us laugh, help us breathe.
These are the friends to hang on to. The ones who mirror qualities similar to our best friend from kindergarten who has stuck around for far more than talent show dance combos. Hold on to those who let you grow independently from them, yet side-by-side.
And when you find those people — or realize which old friends are those people, you’ll know. Like missing puzzle pieces they fill voids we may not even have known we had. They make us warm. Celebrate them in their triumphs, listen to them when they speak, and hold them tightly when they break.
We learn a lot about ourselves as we move along in our twenties. I think we start to realize that we are the best, most real version of ourselves with some people, and with others, we play a character that we’ve developed over time to fit into that specific friendship. But friendship isn’t a too-tight dress. We shouldn’t need personality Spanx.
Shed the people who emotionally constrict. Say goodbye to anyone who has hurt you or casts a shadow over your light. Then let the good people in. The ones you plan to keep around. And let them know you.
Like, really know you. Simple and raw. Because they’re going through all of this, too.
Not everyone is going to stick around forever. You’ll drop some people and you’ll get dropped yourself. And the latter reality might suck. (This is definitely the point at which I should insert a quote from the Wonder Years. I’ll spare you.) Keeping friends as we go along is hard, but keeping the right friends, I have a feeling, will be easier than we expect.