Isn't it amazing how much friendships change as we get older? After I graduated high school and moved across the country to attend Arizona State, I fell out of touch with a lot of friends. And after graduating college and moving back to the East Coast (UP and DOWN the East Coast, actually), I also fell out of touch with friends. Our 20s are weird. We're all searching. Searching our souls, searching for jobs, searching for life partners. We're trying to develop our careers and become comfortable in our own skin.
Personally speaking, my 20s were pure chaos. I moved from Arizona to Florida, New York and Atlanta. I started climbing that corporate ladder and gained exposure in various industries. I became a doggy mommy and bought two houses. I got married and divorced. I made great, new friendships and walked away from a few that weighed me down.
One thing I've realized is true friendships become increasingly more painful to walk away from as we get older. In my 20s, I'd be able to sever ties with a friend for any excuse I deemed valid: We’ve grown apart! She’s so condescending! I’m the only one putting in effort!
Friendship can often be selfish in that way—as soon as we’re not getting what we want out of it, we can call it quits and simply walk away.
I have been the friend who leaves and I have been the friend who is left.
A few years ago, I developed a strong friendship with a girl I met through Crossfit. Shortly after forging our friendship she and her boyfriend (who I also met through our gym) became engaged. I rejoiced in their engagement. I threw her bridal shower, planned her bachelorette party in Savannah, took the day off work to witness them get married at the courthouse before traveling to Mexico to stand in her wedding as a bridesmaid. We supported each other during the hard times, too. We shared plenty of bottles of wine as I droned on and on about my dating woes, as she cried about the challenges of becoming a step mom to two grown children and the complexities of dealing with her future husband's ex wife and the nonsense that came along with it. We both work as Marketing Directors and would frequently bounce ideas off one another. We talked daily and loved working out together.
Our breakup wasn't a sudden hit to the head. After I felt the chasm between us develop and continue to grow, I reached out to understand why she was avoiding me.
The text I received from her basically stated that we're in different places in our lives - she was recently married and in the process of trying to conceive, and I was single training for my fitness competition - and she just didn't think we could relate to each other any longer.
I took days to respond. Her words (even via text) cut so deep. I tried to understand, I tried to reason, but I couldn't. I responded telling her that we may be in different chapters in the book of life, but we're the same women. At least I was. So what if I was single? So what if I was eating out of tupperware in restaurants and not drinking? So what! Friends - true ones - are like family. We stand by each other, love each other, and support each other through all of lifes ups and downs.
And just like that. Years and years of friendship, gone.
I was crushed. How could she give up on our friendship so easily?
It makes me wonder... what if we took an approach to friendships similar to that of a marriage? What if we vowed to love our friends for better and for worse?
What if we promised our close friends that no argument or simple misunderstanding would rip us apart, letting us crush years of loving memories with the swift click of a text message.
It's no secret. We're all human. We all mess up. But what if we honor our friendships with the comfort that even when we fuck up, even when we say things we don't mean or mean things we fail to say, that with grace and forgiveness we will move forward together?
What if we stopped giving up on friendship so easily and vowed to fight for those we love?
Let's be clear. I'm fully aware there is a place and time for letting go of toxic relationships. But once you get to the point in your life when you’ve found your inner circle, your people, the ones who visit you in the hospital after giving birth and bring you a cookie when you’re having a shitty day and let you cry over the phone about the hard things, isn’t that worth fighting for?