What Friendship Really Means

What does it mean to have friends in your adult years?  This question has been nagging me for quite some time, and thus the idea of this post; however, I simply could not seem to get the answer to form into words.  What I needed was an ah-ha moment and to my great fortune, I had two.

To better understand why the question of friendship even came to mind, you have to know a bit about me.  I have led a slightly nomadic life until recently.  I have lived in 16 different houses/apartments in 5 different states and in 3 different countries in the span of 30 years.  I have packed and unpacked suitcases and boxes enough times to last me a lifetime.  And in the process of bouncing across the world I have made many, many friends.  I have also lost many, many more.  Sure, social media allows me to keep in contact, but truthfully, I haven’t seen the vast majority of my online friends in years, and some, I might never come across again.

As I reached the bitter milestone of 30 this past year, I started rethinking my contacts, more specifically, those closest to me.  I came to the realization that, differently than my childhood expectations created by 90210, I don’t have a clique of my own.  I don’t have a bff that has been by my side since the early Girl Scout days.  What I have instead, is a wide array of very different online friends who each hold a tiny chunk of my history in their minds and hearts and I also have new friends since my nomadic days seem to have ended.  Those are the friends that have come into my life within the past four to five years, but with whom I do not share a history of childhood.

This realization created a longing for someone: a person who knew me when I was not a mom, not a wife, not a grown up.  I longed for someone who knew me. 

Of course, the first step in realizing that my ideals of friendship were nonexistent in my life, was self pity.  Woe is me who is lonely and without friends.  Yes, I know: pathetic. It gave me the idea, however, to look up old friends: people who did, once upon a time, know me.  Out came the yearbooks and the Facebook stalking began.  Within a couple hours I had found several old friends, two of which were actually really close friends of mine – I’m not even sure why we never kept in touch!  My first ah-ha moment came from exactly one of these two.  She wrote, “I wish I was as happy as you are. I feel lost at times“.  I quickly learned two things from her comment.  1) She was right: I am truly happy overall.  2) Not moving 16 times across the world and back, does not guarantee a happily ever after in life.

I decided, then, to take a second and less woe-is-me approach to the friendship issue.  I turned to my new friends. They all seemed to be living well adjusted, healthy lives.  What they did not have, though, was a specific one-only go-to person.  Most had several friends – 3 or 4 – whom they could count on day and night.  I was more surprised to find that I was one of those select few.

And here the question was born:  What does it mean to have friends in your adult years?  The new friends I find myself with today, what do we share that keeps us close?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend a fair amount of quality time with my friends at Baby W’s first birthday party.  As I was uploading his birthday pictures, I came across one particular shot which brought about my second and final ah-ha moment.  In that shot, my three friends and I shared a moment.  It was nothing an outsider could understand.  It was an inside joke, a shared secret, it was a shared moment.  We were fortunate to have caught it on camera.  I realized that is what makes a friendship in your adult life: sharing moments.  We each have husbands, children, jobs, commitments, and responsibilities.  Our time is stretched taut like rubber band, but in moments that we share, that rubber band gives just a bit, just enough for us to nurture our friendships and create a bond.

I understand now that adult friendships require dedication, time, and a ton of understanding.  We won’t make every dinner party or every kid’s birthday, but we will always put forth the effort.  I also understand now what I lack with some of my past friendships and what I lack with all my online friends are the moments.  I hate to think that there is a person out there who has the potential to share in those priceless moments with me, yet we miss out because of lack of trying.  So I am urging you to reach out to others and make those moments happen.  Don’t just send me a text, call me.  Don’t just send me a message on Facebook, come visit or meet me half way.

Life is too full of those precious, fantastic moments to be wasted virtually..

Logging off.

My BFFs!

Sharing Our Moment

Being the New Kid on the Block

Let me tell you a little story about being the new kid on the block: it stinks.  We were all the new one at some point.  Our first day of kindergarten or first day at a new job.  Those first hours are exhilarating as you face the unknown.  You sport  a new outfit, maybe even a new hairdo.  The doors to a whole new world open up to you, presenting  unfamiliar faces: potential allies and friends.  The past is a train that has long since departed.  No one knows you.  You can pave the path to becoming a whole different person.  “I am adventurous” or “I am upbeat”.  No one can stop you – but you.

There’s that ‘but’.  That dreaded ‘but’ always gets in the way of an easy life.  With a field of possibilities, what creates this ‘but’?  To explain I have to step back in time.  I was raised in a split world: half of me grew up surrounded by my maternal family – a steady un-altering ground.  The other half lived the military brat lifestyle: most of my school years were spent on military bases and my friends and I moved all the time.  Whoever was my best friend one year could potentially live on the other side of the world the next year.  The advantage to this situation is that now I have friends on literally every single continent.  The disadvantage is that I have friends on every single continent – and our friendships have spread so thin over the years.  But jump ahead a decade or two, and here I am now living in Mississippi and it looks permanent (how did that ever happen…)

I have the innate ability to make friends easily, and the ones I have made here make me a happy person.  Certain thoughts and realizations, however, put salt on an open wound, and that brings me to today.  I am days away from turning thirty years old.  (Sigh.)  Yet once again, I am back in college.  I am working on a second degree since my first has flopped tragically.  Thankfully the years have fared well on my face and, besides the hidden stretchmarks of motherhood, I still look reasonably young.  None the less, there are small details that set me apart from the young college crowd:  my wedding band, the drawings my boys have taped onto my day planner, and the over-sized bag I carry with half my house in tow.  As I write this I am sitting in The Commons, cruel irony considering I feel no commonality with anyone in the room.  One hipster has a laptop covered with propaganda stickers.  A brunette (who, may I add, is fishing way out of her league) is hovering over him flicking her hair to the side as she flirts with the Ron Paul fan.  At another table another couple is bent over a nursing book exchanging notes.  All I can do is ask myself, “What are you doing here?  This is no place for you!  You don’t belong!” Ah! There it is! The “you don’t belong” fear!

We have an option on that first day of whatever it is we are encountering: we can be the wallflower who’s eyes dart quickly from people’s glances, or we can peel ourselves out of that shell of shyness and become known.  Anyone that knows me will say that I have never been, nor will I ever be a wallflower.  I have mastered the skill of becoming the newcomer everyone knows.  I have mastered the ability to make friends with the most difficult people (BE, that would be you!), or those who are even more of a newcomer than I am (OV), or neighbors (SB).  As I unravel my persona – the new one I create for each new friend or the old one that just sneaks out over time, I am still left wondering if I will ever actually belong anywhere with anyone.  Will they ever think “Back in the day with Nicole…”?

Until then, however, I will just be…adventurous; no, upbeat; no, just me…

welcome