Throughout my adult life, I’ve spent many minutes that have amounted to many hours and maybe even days thinking about friendship–what it means, whether I’m good at it, how much of it I have compared to other people, and what I need to do (or not do) to obtain a more impressive amount.
This last pressure has always weighed the most heavily. Post-high school, I never really had a “crew”–the extensive friend network that lends itself to massive group chats and 20-person dinners. Instead I have what I’ll call “pods,” small groups of roughly 2-4 friends from different areas or phases of my life, each tucked into their own neat little orbit and only colliding on rare occasions like birthdays or weddings. Combining friend groups is hard. Making new, genuine friends as an adult is even harder–for me, at least. I used to consider this a big issue, one I spoke about to therapists and incorporated into New Year’s resolutions: Put yourself out there more! Ask someone out for coffee! Act now or doom your social circle to permanent smallness!
It only recently occurred to me that this particular anxiety–the one that says everyone is out there making new friends and combining friends and being extroverted except me–hasn’t buzzed in my chest like a wasp in months. After the revelation hit, I started thinking about the future of friendship. I’ve been thinking about how it’s going to work over the next year, and what I want my relationship with it to be.
Friendship feels more important than ever, but in a completely different way. There’s still a sense of pressure, but one that is more internal-facing–one that asks me not what I’m doing to make more friends, but instead what I’m doing to serve the friends I already have. How can I make them feel seen and appreciated when I can’t actually see them in person right now? How can I give more and ask for less? Am I reaching out only when I need something, or when I think they might need something? Maybe “pressure” isn’t the right word, because that tends to have a negative connotation, and there is nothing negative-feeling about this desire. It feels more like a kind of yearning, born from the tender space between missing and wanting to be missed in return.
I’m still learning how to get it right, this friendship thing, especially in such a strange and isolated time. But I’m grateful for the perspective–the proverbial kick in the pants reminding me that while making new friends will always be a worthy pursuit, re-investing some of that time and energy into the ones I already have and love is often even worthier. I’m also curious how other people are negotiating their respective relationships with the joys and pressures of friendship right now. Are you struggling to stay in touch with friends, or has it come easily? Have you made any new friends? If you felt like you needed to before, do you still feel that now? Have your friendships been enriched by communicating in quarantine or strained? How will the future of adult friendship and what we expect it to look and feel like will be impacted by this collective experience? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Feature photo via Fox Network.