The older I get the more disillusioned I seem to become with friendships. Twenty years since college and I don’t think I’m more than “Facebook friends” with anyone from that time in my life, let alone high school. It’s not that I’ve had major falling outs; for the most part it just seems that I’ve drifted away from these circles, and that people who I was once close with are not people who I can count on now. I’m married with young kids and feel very grateful for my family, and a couple of close friends, but sometimes I see and hear about these people who have rich relationships with peers from what appear to be every social affiliation of their life (high school, camp, college, moms groups) and I can’t help but feel left out. Is this normal?
Dear Missing out,
A few weeks after my daughter was born, I paid a woman - a stranger - to come over and spread peanut butter on a piece of toast, scramble me a couple of eggs, and sit with me for a couple of hours. Dan was back at work, and though I had what I considered a decent amount of friends - a sprinkling from college, grad school, work - I was too embarrassed to reach out to them for help - or even just company - which I desperately needed at the time.
When Dan and I were in the initial stages of discussing - with a few peers - the idea of a spiritual community, one honoring tradition and creative expression, a participant in this conversation stated that she was not looking to build such a group around friendships. She wasn’t interested in worrying about whether she “liked” or agreed with every member of this newly forming group, but rather wanted to know that these people would show up for one another - in times of celebration and suffering - out of a sense of commitment to something larger than their personal preferences and bonds with one another.
It was a bold assertion and your note reminds me why.
First, let me say, that yes, what you are feeling is normal: All of it. Growing apart from friends (especially at pivotal and transitional life stages), feeling like everyone else has these relationships, and longing for them.
Though, in my conversations with others, what seems most common is people thinking that everyone else has these packs of close friends, while actually sharing a universal loneliness, a true yearning for community.
I have never had the ensemble posse of a Sex and the City or Girls or Golden Girls, for that matter, and have longed, at different stages for such a clique. But in a time when rifts over dissenting viewpoints publicly pull apart friends, I feel grateful that my few close relationships reflect diverse intersections of my life; I’m glad that the people who I consider dear could not fit into any specific sphere or affiliation.
I live in a city where people are largely consumed by the tremendous responsibilities of their own lives. This may be true everywhere. Sometimes people who I love hurt my feelings because they are not there when I need them, and I know the reverse of this is also true.
The demands of marital partnerships, young kids, jobs can be enough to thwart friendships. This may be a natural stage of your life that will shift over time. You mention a longing for people who you can count on. Missing out, these might not be your high school friends, or college friends or members of your moms group. But you are not alone. Cherish those close to you and seek out the types of settings that honor those with similar yearnings for connection - people who will show up in the most crucial moments of your life. I am right there with you.