If you are a 20-something year old, with a handful of friends that you get to call “close friends”, I’d say “Welcome to the world of friendships in adulthood!”.
Gone are the days of quantity over quality. Adulthood friendships are quite the contrary to be fair.
Over the years post college, I’ve somehow added maintaining old friendships as an additional task to the laundry list of to-dos that I already fall behind on. Yet in addition, I’ve also discovered that striking new relationships and making new friends as equally difficult!
Every time I’ve had to catch up with an old friend, I know for a fact that I’ve started conversations with THAT text. The, “Hey, I know I suck at being a good friend” or “I know I’ve been slacking with keeping up with life!”, text.
And anytime I’ve attempted to make new friends during the process of either moving to a new city or simply because I need a pang of freshness in my circle- I’ve realized that new adult friendships don’t come very often. Even if you were like me, an extrovert. People have their own groups, individual views and independent lifestyles that you cannot simply pile on.
Occasionally I’d hope that workplace friendships or an unexpected friendship at social places like (gyms, parties etc), would occur, but thanks to COVID and our generations disability to follow up , the only silver lining is social media. A mere Instagram follow to show that you know of this new person. That’s the new age definition of “friendships” now…
Friendships in your 20’s for me has always been an amalgamation of old friendships + potential new friendships and all the quirks that come with it! When we decided to start our podcast- After 21, “Friendships in adulthood” was the first thing we wanted to delve right into. The aim was to unravel the complexity of either maintaining or striking new friendships, through the journey of 4 episodes: Maintaining Friendships, Workplace Friendships, Making friends in a new city and a guest episode on reflections on the 20’s.
So inspired from countless behind-the scenes-conversations, many personal experience(s) and these episodes, here’s a deeper dive on what the “joys of friendships”, in adulthood, looks like (major sarcasm, if you didn’t notice already!).
The old friendship dilemma
I say “dilemma”, only because staying in touch with friends after college is not a cakewalk. For lack of a better term, adulting hits us even before we know it!
We’re neither throwing down with friends on a “Thirsty Thursday” night nor are we planning trips across the country or the world for the summer breaks. The after college (or the “After 21” life as we like to call it), has a clock of its own and priorities shift with accordingly.
Establishing your career comes first over time spent with family and friends. Growing from newer life experiences takes place instead of reminiscing older memories with friends. AND worst of all, (and I HATE to say it), sometimes, you may not even relate to or feel relevant with your oldest childhood friends. The only thing that binds you is some blast from the past incidents over a few spilled drinks!
So, how do we actively make an effort to maintain friendships that mean dearly to us?
- Be the first to check in
In order to make relationships work, you need to take a step to reach out. Check in on your friends. Cold call them. Plan trips with them. But keep them updated. That is the most important. I occasionally even write letters to my best friends (old schools, but the feels hit harder than you think!).
I am not a pro at this, I clearly only have some 6 friends that I can call as my “best friends”, but I always make it a point that they know that they hold a very special place in my life. But here’s the deal- if the want or the effort is not two sided, then that’s the alarm bells ringing saying maybe they may not be worth the effort.
2. Calendar invite yourself or your friends to stay accountable
Some may rather call this an infamous and rather intrusive method to maintain friendships. But hey! If it works, then it works. I’ve found that while a large part of calendar invites depend upon the local culture of the geographic location your friends live in- AKA, folks in India HATE scheduling calls with friends and rather call you instinctively when they think of you. As opposed to North America, where my friends prefer to have it on their calendars as a reminder.
Regardless of where you or your friends are located, I have found that putting a note on my calendar or on my to-do list serves as a mental reminder to check in on my friends. I for one, have a serious disease of FOMO, so missing out on monumental events in my best friends lives is NOT an option.
The new friendship equation
I think of friendships as a plant. Over time some leaves fall out the wagon if we aren’t doing a good job at maintaining them. However when the sun is out and the conditions are in favor of the plant, there are always newer saplings growing out that take place of the withered ones.
It is the same with friends. I have found that some meaningful friendships in the past may have dissolved over time but newer friends have surprisingly supplemented their place, in a different way. The dynamics and the definition of this new friendship most definitely changes as you grow older and that’s an equation you have to get a hold of.
A lot of new adult friendships could either stem from moving to a new city or from the workplace or a potential social gathering (which seems highly unlikely considering how the past 2 years have taken shape thanks to corona!). Or a more generationally accurate example- a dating app.
Regardless of the circumstance, I have found through NUMEROUS encounters that new friends cannot satisfy all the buckets of a friend you’d want! They have their inner circle and a life of their own. Expecting new friends to be your all- is far from the truth that I have struggled to grapple with as I’ve gotten older. Touch and go or space with each other, seems to be the trend that brings new friends closer!
But that’s the equation- you can’t force your way to becoming the best of friends, no matter how much you get along. But you also cannot afford to miss out on a new friendship, just because of that. Meeting people these days is a hard task, so you might as well make the best of a new friend!
The two way street
Friendships are an extremely piece of the puzzle. Its an echo of your personality and you must preserve them with care. But an important truth to recognize that it is ALWAYS a two way street.
Despite the fact of it being an old or a new friend, if the want doesn’t exist from the other side, then it will not work. You can call, text, calendar invite or plan as much as you want, but if the other person isn’t showing as much of an interest- it maybe time to let live and let go. As painful as that might be.
The one thing I have taken away from all the reflection I’ve done on all my friendships is that for those that have remained, I have always made sure to let them know of the appreciation I’ve had for them. That is the only way to foster a relationship.
You can find AFTER 21 on all your leading streaming services. Links down below. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast and share your views thoughts and opinions! You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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