A friend – inasmuch as we’ve had dinner together once and been following one another on Twitter for about 5 years – tweeted a link to a NYT article about making friends in your 30’s onward some time ago. I identified all too well. In general, 30-somethings just run out of the kind of close friends that we really do rely upon, if we don’t pay attention to “restocking” our supply.
Unlike the study reported in the Times, I haven’t grown closer to the few friends I’ve retained. I barely keep in contact because I refuse to subject myself to Facebook, which is apparently the only way that anyone wants to exchange information anymore. Facebook is stressful to me and makes me anxious and paranoid, but opting out means I’m continually left out. Out of sight, out of mind. Well, except for one BFF who actually sent me an email to let me know she’s got a new job…at Facebook.
Are they really friends? I love these people so much, but we no longer have active relationships. I know I’m just as much at fault for being too busy, for moving away from them, for phone avoidance, etc. So I blame myself for being so self-absorbed in grad school for the last 7 years, and conclude that my once-upon-a-time friends have simply forgotten me.
Like the ones for whom kids are the most important thing in the world. I hate finding out that a good friend is pregnant. I make all the socially appropriate responses and I’m pleased that she’s happy, but as soon I’m by myself, I start sobbing because I’ve essentially lost yet another friend. I get it, I really do; family comes first and I respect that, but their bundle of joy is a nuclear bomb on our friendship. They are good parents who now have more important things to do. This scenario just plays out again and again. I’ve tried to keep in touch; they are too absorbed by parenting to reciprocate. Our worlds are too different now and they will only continue to diverge.
As the Times article points out, it’s getting harder to have the right ingredients for good friendships: proximity, serendipitous interactions, and space to be adequately comfortable to let your guard down. It’s my fault on proximity – we moved away from everyone we loved, and never replaced our friends with new local acquaintances. After all, we’re only here temporarily, until I get a “real” job. That’s temporary as in 5 years and counting. Yeah.
Teddy Ruxpin by Wade Tregaskis, CC BY-NC.
Of course, it’s also my own fault for becoming so isolated – it was a necessary sacrifice to achieve my goals. But now I’ve dug a hole so deep that I can’t see how to climb out of it, nor am I even sure that I should leave my little cave anymore. I’m too afraid of rejection to try to develop new friendships. I carry around too much hurt already.
And letting my guard down? Ha! Maybe I’m just oversensitive, but I endured a lot of rejection as a kid just for being myself. For example, around 27 years ago, I nervously asked Katie Murphy if she wanted to be friends because I needed reassurance that the sentiment was mutual. She turned around and said,
What are you, Teddy Ruxpin?
I never asked someone if they wanted to be friends again.
Write what you feel: Sad, lonely, angry – regretting even thinking about friends loved and lost. Frustrated and judging myself very harshly for not being asleep yet, for not trying harder to keep up with friends, for being sad, for crying again. Just drug me up and stick me in a corner. Eternally grateful for Mr. Chickadee’s loving companionship.