Last Sunday I returned from a long weekend in Minnesota. It was a fabulous weekend with some of my favorite people. It started with an overnight in Mayberry, the home of one of my college besties, Bev. Believe it or not, it was my first time visiting Mayberry – a tiny town cozied up half way between here and my final destination – and it was just as I imagined. It’s so quaint, Bev’s family has to account for 87% of the population AND the square footage (#ANF). While I was in town, Bev, her parents, her high school best friend, her high school best friend’s parents and I all had dinner at the one bar and grill in town, Donna’s, and as warned, I left there smelling like a giant onion ring. It was glorious. I even ran across Donna herself. When you think of tiny midwest towns, as far as I could tell, Mayberry is exactly what you’d imagine. I can’t wait to return.
After my evening and family lunch the next day at Bev’s parents’ house (they were obviously the most gracious hosts), I continued on my journey up to the twin cities to reunite with some of my other favorites. It was just what I needed. We talked too much, drank too much and played (never too much). It was one of the best weekends I’ve had so far in 2017. I often find myself wishing I lived closer to a lot of my friends, don’t get me wrong I have great friends here that I’d do anything for but there’s just something about those friends who have literally gone through the lowest lows and the highest highs with you – as the kids might say those “ride or die” ladies who have literally ridden and risked dying with me, who have always looked out for me. The ones who’s secrets I keep near to my heart and who’s well being I worry about almost as much as my children.
As I drove home on Sunday – a full five and half hours – with a full heart, I thought about my adult friendships and how different they are, or how much they’ve matured and evolved, especially since having kids.
There’s something really solid about those friendships that make it through the drunken college years and into the real life stuff of babies, lost babies, marriages, failed marriages, career highs and career lows. The friends that pick up the phone and get on the planes and make the drive are the ones that teach you the real lessons of adult friendship.
They don’t feel like work. Even though you’re 100% aware that they are.
Honest friendships don’t feel like work. Of course there are times – because you want to be more present or more available, especially as adults living adult lives – that you wish you put in more work or had more time but that’s different than feeling burdened by a friendship and equating it to work. I miss my friends when I’m not with them, I think of each of them at least once a day, I wonder what they’re doing and of course I hope they’re doing well and that they’re happy. I’m usually kicking myself for not calling them back – they have the greatest knack for calling when I’m multitasking 300 different things AND trying to have a conversation over screaming children. I’ve learned the hard way these are not ideal conditions for phone calls. But even though you don’t always pick up or call back, adult friends still call, they still book the flights and they still get in their car for the long drive just sit down and have dinner face-to-face. Because they get it and they also love you just as much as you love them. It doesn’t feel like work but truth is, it totally is. And we know it. In fact, it has never been more clear. As adults, we’re in the thick of it, right in the middle of the thick of it. Nowadays we’re tempted to stay in, skip out, catch ’em next time. That temptation is SO REAL but we go anyway because even though it’s work, we know it won’t feel like it.
They don’t mandate loyalty.
It took me a long time to learn that real friendship doesn’t come with ultimatums. It doesn’t require you to choose one person over another, it doesn’t require you to talk ugly about someone else to gain momentum, it doesn’t mandate your loyalty or manipulate you into exclusivity. It doesn’t intimidate you into thinking you’d never get any better – or worse, intimidate you into remaining loyal with an openly charismatic ability to manipulate other people’s opinions of you. Honest friendship doesn’t ask for anything but matched effort and a promise that you’ll be there – to listen, to sit, to celebrate, to talk, to support. An adult friendship is an invaluable partnership, not a dictatorship mandating loyalty or a one-sided relationship based on intimidation or manipulation. That’s teenager shit, we don’t have time for that.
Adult friends don’t make friends drive drunk – but they will ride along.
Of course this is an analogy because I would never promote drinking and driving but sometimes a bad relationship or a toxic friendship can feel a lot like drunk driving. You’re likely to hurt yourself and possibly others but your true friends, no matter how much they disagree with your choices, will be right there with you. They’re there to see it through, to see you through. They help pick up the pieces when the ride is over, sometimes they tell you “I told you so.” Sometimes they tell you “I hated that guy all along.” Sometimes they don’t say anything because they know you know they knew it wouldn’t end well; they’ve been waiting for the fall out. They know you well enough to know you are your own biggest critic and that it will be months, maybe years before this one starts to fade. They’d never make you do something you’d regret, but they’ll ride along every time.
They come in different shapes and sizes.
Some of the best people I’ve ever known, had the pleasure to meet or call a best friend, I only see or talk to a few times a year. And it’s true what they say, it’s like a day has never passed. Kids, marriages, failed marriages, failed careers, major moves – it’s still just like riding a bike. You just get back on and romp around like you never missed a beat.There is nothing better than that first hug after passed time with a friend that always feels like it was just yesterday. Sometimes I swear those hugs could move mountains. A heart of gold is a heart of gold, regardless of dust or cracks or slow-to-mend breaks.
They last forever – until they don’t. And that’s cool.
Some people have the same friends forever. I’m not one of those of those people. I couldn’t name one kid I went to elementary school with. I mean, other than the kid who lived down the block and flashed me in the cafeteria during lunch. His name was Marcus (I think) and even though I thought it was funny (and creepy) at the time, I will never forget how NOT funny my mother thought it was when I told her about it after school. I had a best friend back then, I think her name might have been Jessica? And I had friends who lived down the street, their dad raced cars and I think he was sponsored by Pepsi – or maybe we just all really liked Pepsi? Do you ever remember something one way from your childhood but then think as an adult that can’t be true…can it?!
I talk to my high school friends every now and then. A group of girls who, had you asked me when I was 17, were destined to be my ONLY friends for the rest of my life; every time anyone tried to gently prepare me for reality, I’d say something like, “Well, you don’t know us. We will be friends FOREVER.” Forever, in our case, faded slowly. I guess that will happen when you move thousands of miles away from home, find yourself on an island in the middle of the pacific left to your own devices(ish) and forced to really figure out who you are – feel out your boundaries, listen to your heart, explore on your own, learn how to make yourself happy.
Most of my best friends are from college and even then, some of those have faded or dropped off. Some I had to walk away from. Evolving isn’t easy, being true to who you are and what you feel isn’t easy and sometimes the hard things really are the right things. I’m thankful for every friend I’ve had along the way and in those moments I loved them with my whole being, but while friendships last forever in one sense, they really only last until they don’t. And that’s cool.