Yesterday, I spent the day with two of my college roommates. We all lived together at various points in dorm rooms and off-campus housing before going our separate ways. In the 12 or so years since we graduated, the three of us have built completely different lives and careers save for a few areas of overlap. Despite living in different corners of the state, we get together every couple months and pick up right where we left off. This weekend we tried something new and went to a Korean day spa about equidistant from our homes. None of us had ever been to one before and really didn't know what to expect. It ended up being quite the experience but one that I wouldn't want to share with anyone besides them.
The last few years, I've thought a lot about adult friendships and the way our relationships change as life becomes more complicated. I am by no means an expert and frankly, have as many former friends as I do current. Such is the nature of getting older. But I have learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share - and as it turns out, it's the International Day of Friendship so here goes:
- Talk it out - At some point, we started talking about another roommate of ours who broke a lease and moved out early. We tried to remember the catalyst but couldn't settle on any one factor. I remember there was tension and people stopped speaking but in hindsight, the whole mess probably could have been avoided by having the hard conversation we were all avoiding.
I've seen too many friendships fall apart because of one person's discomfort. It breeds contempt and ultimately drives a wedge between people. It's not worth letting good memories go because of fear or jealousy. Tell your friends if something is bothering you. Odds are they don't realize how you're feeling and will work to remedy the situation. If not, you would have lost the friendship anyway and at least you can say you tried.
- Don't keep score - This drives me crazy. No matter what your situation looks like, your life is busy. Same with your friends. Sometimes you have to be the one to reach out again and again. Maybe for every five times that you reach out, they only reach out once. Chances are, they just aren't as in touch as you are and you shouldn't take this behavior personally.
Yes, it feels nice when someone makes the effort. Everyone wants to be acknowledged by their friends. But you won't get anywhere sitting around waiting for other people to call. As an adult, you have to make things happen and keeping track of who called who when will only make you feel bad. That is the exact opposite reason we have friends.
- Ask questions - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are not a substitute for interacting with other people. Do not delude yourself into thinking you know what's going on in someone's life because of what they post on the Internet. Babies are cute, puppies are cute and vacation is awesome. That said, there is usually more to the story than meets the eye.
By only experiencing what you see online, you miss out on the reality of life. Sure, things are less exciting when your week is mostly just work, home, gym, weekend. However, it's hard to read between the lines when there are character limits and algorithms restricting what you see. Ask your friends questions - and I don't mean a generic "How's work?" Probe deeper and ask about their career plans, what goals they're setting for the year, what they're reading, etc.
Somedays, I wake up and wrestle with my own adulthood. Like I've done all of these adult things but still don't feel in control. And that's just it - being an adult means realizing that you're the one in charge now. There's no one to tell you what to do or eat, no one to clean up your messes. This goes double for friendships, especially your most local ones. You have to make twice the effort to see your friends way less than you use to - but for the good ones, it's totally worth it.
P.S. For the long distance ones I almost never get to see, there are those old-school communications like phone calls and mail. Schedule a time to talk every couple weeks or pop something in the mail. A funny card, or a t-shirt they'd like, something random to just let them know they crossed your mind. With any luck, you'll see them soon.