Finding Time: The Challenges of Grown-Up Friendships

Adult friendships are hard.

It’s not necessarily the fact of making new friends, which to be fair, is a challenge in and of itself.

The bigger difficulty lies, rather, in consciously finding the time and space for these friendships to flourish.

I always had just one best friend growing up, the very same one from kindergarten through to graduation. We maintained the friendship past then, even, but sadly (or maybe not so much), it didn’t survive beyond our mid-20s. We moved to different cities and met different people until, eventually, the only thing we had in common was our shared history, the nostalgia of our youth.

I had hoped the friendship would gracefully drift apart with a heartfelt mutual appreciation for what had once been, but I understood quickly that my sentiments were one-sided. My childhood bets friend could not accept the person I’d grown into as a young adult and, I suspect, resented me for no longer being the same person she’d reliably known all along.

The friendship ended sourly, so much so that in spite of having worked past the emotional impact of the fallout, I don’t think the damage could ever be fully repaired. She’s tentatively reached out to me a few times in the seven or so years since we parted ways, and each time I’ve deliberated whether I’m capable and willing to rekindle some kind of connection with her. Each time, the answer has been no.

Growing up in a small town with one best friend my entire childhood meant I was especially unaccustomed to making new friends. There were a few people I met in college I’m still vaguely connected to simply by virtue of social media, but it wasn’t until my first, official, post-undergrad office job that I made my genuinely first adult friendship.

That friendship was a slow and steady blossoming. It may have been my first, official, post-undergrad office job, but it was by all means an entry-level environment paying an entry-level wage. We were chronically frustrated by how the business was managed because we, as front-end employees, were the ones subjected to the wrath of unhappy clients. We had — or at least, believed we had — an intimate knowledge of how the workplace could be improved, but lacked the power to put those changes into motion.

That meant not only did the four of us spend a lot of time commiserating with one another, we also spent a lot of time supporting each other through the bullshit (“I’ll take this one, you need a break”). That moral support formed the beginning foundation of our friendship, and we, unbelievably, began hanging out on the weekends (never have I ever in any other job chosen to spend my weekends with the people I work with).

What I loved from the beginning was how much of an unlikely formation we were, our ages spreading over an eight-year range, our personal lives seemingly unalike. Were it not for the strange occasion of our being employed all at once by the same organization, we may never have crossed paths.

I think it was, in fact, our varying perspectives and personalities that cemented our bond with one another.

Having a best friend in childhood is typically (I think?) an exercise in becoming as similar to one another as possible, and my childhood bestie and I were no exception. We deliberately dressed identically, we watched all the same movies and shows and we listened to all the same bands for the entirety of our friendship. To defy this sameness was utter betrayal, and so I was habituated from the very start to always define my preferences on the basis of someone else’s. I think I’m probably not the only one — that for the vast majority of us, childhood peer relations are a practice in learning how not to stray from the flock.

So, when it came to my first genuine adult friendship and spending time with three unique individuals who each had a new and unique perspective to bring to the table, I was, for lack of better words, mind-blown.

In fact, much of our early friendship was spent sharing these unique perspectives because much of our early time together was spent smoking pot. We’d come together in the evening, pass a joint or two (or more) and have deep and philosophical conversations about the nature of energy, the likelihood of aliens, the probability of spirit guides. It may have sounded like stoner nonsense to some, but it inspired and compelled us. It excited us, and that excitement rapidly brought us closer and closer together.

In the past 13 years of friendship, we’ve been through it all, the highs and the lows, the good and the bad. We’ve shared some pretty epic adventures, as well, and the realization that adventures don’t have to be grandiose to qualify as epic.

In the past 13 years of togetherness, we’ve also realized the undeniable truth: adult friendships are hard.

As different people with different passions and different interests, we’ve each chosen a path that best aligns with the things that inspire us. The paths run complimentary to one another, for sure, but each one also requires a certain amount of time and energy from the individual, and that can mean there’s minimal precious time and space left for one another.

At the start, employed by the same organization, our schedules were dependably identical. An evening get-together was never far-fetched because we could literally just leave together from work. Later, we had different jobs, but they remained within the same 9 to 5 realm, so that even though we were tired by the demands of work, our tiredness was a communal condition.

Time carried on and our work evolved. Each of us got clearer on what we want and shaped our lifestyles accordingly. Each of us is working towards making a living on our own terms (building a business, dreaming up a workshop, travelling the province), which means it’s no longer as straightforward or convenient as simply convening at the office. Schedules clash, plans change suddenly and sometimes, it’s just a matter of not having the physical, mental or emotional capability to make the space for togetherness.

There are new logistics in the mix, too. One of us (me) moved outside the city as a result of inflated housing costs and a pressing desire to live more rural. Another works in the forestry sector, requiring long periods of time spent travelling.

And there are all the other aspects of being a grown human that influence the ease with which we’re able to come together, the things that are usually less fun but take precedence over a potential joining (early morning appointments and dirty bathrooms and paperwork that needs filing, and such seemingly little time to get all of it accomplished!).

It’s true these days that our schedules rarely jive and the distance is an obstacle and we’re honestly just tired, like, a lot of the time. And yet despite these barriers, our friendship has adapted. (God bless group chat.)

Planning get-togethers never seems as easy as it once was, but on those precious occasions when things do miraculously align, the time we’re able to spend together is that much more special. In fact, we’ve begun to joke how adept we’ve gotten at maximizing our time together, squeezing out every last blissful drop.

Recently we had a cherished opportunity to come together just last month, all four of us, for a spur-of-the-moment overnight getaway. We reflected during the trip how our getaways of the past used to be so coordinated, so meticulously-prepared (transportation and meal planning and confirmed-acceptable sleeping arrangements).

Nowadays, there just isn’t the space for that level of organization — none of us can be bothered to channel our valuable energy into that kind of systemization (not even me, the historically chronic over-planner, the one who used to always send the initial “meal ideas” email).

Now, we make plans on the fly and focus instead on simply enjoying the time we spend with one another, which, after those seemingly-infinite stretches of not seeing each other, are like a giant, invigorating breath of fresh air, a much-needed rejuvenation, a great big push of the reset button.

Our time together, be it as brief as a short hike in the woods or as luxuriously long as a weekend road trip away, always serves as a regeneration, a restorative balm for the soul.

Adult friendships may be hard, but by god, they’re worth it.

Written by

“We’re all mad here.” Just another 30-something elder millennial writing from the heart about whatever. Oversharing is my specialty.

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