Making friends in school was simple, almost as simple as something like sharing snacks or enjoying the same cartoons. Sometimes, a small and a kind gesture was all it took to make a friend for life (or a BFF like the kids like to call it). Similarly, college came with its own set of adventures and late-night study sessions, which made making friends - and creating lifelong bonds - pretty easy.
However, it was when I transitioned into adulthood, that I came upon something I’d never come across before…it was unsettling uncertainty. The shift from the familiar routines of school life to the myriad responsibilities of adulthood created this invisible distance that began to affect those ‘rather unshakable’ bonds of friendship. With everyone moving in separate directions and focusing on their own paths, the effort required to maintain these connections became more and more apparent (and distant).
Fortunately for me, I got off pretty easy - while some friendships survived with just a few bumps, others required a little more effort to survive. My transition period of jumping into adulthood was not easy; I focused all my energy on trying to - for lack of a better word - "adult," and I forgot about everything in my life that made me who I was up until that point. Looking back on my eagerness to embrace the challenges of adulthood, I neglected the balance between work, family, and friendships. I found myself unintentionally neglecting all my friends, failing to respond to texts, and missing out on important family gatherings; not only making excuses for things that made me feel less productive; but also actively avoiding meeting anyone who I perceived as a threat to my ‘adult actualization’ (yes, I did blur out the self somewhere along the way).
After a couple of months of passive-aggressive back and forth with my friends, my friend(s) and I decided to have a heartfelt conversation about the state of our relationship(s). What started off as a pleasant conversation turned into a confrontation pretty quickly. Before either of us could realise, we were all defensive about our stances and really just not open to taking the other one for granted.
It seemed strange that my friends - who once seemed to understand everything that I was thinking without even me having to say it out loud - could not see that I wanted them to be there for me and understand where I was coming from. How could they? It felt like we we were all speaking in different languages but saying similar things.
The distance felt a bit mutual.
It was this very distance that made me realise that I was feeling lonely and longed to feel accepted. So, to ensure that I got my point across that they needed to understand me, I came up with an intervention to talk about how we need to be there for each other. This helped us sit down and actually be honest about what we were all going through and how similar we seemed to all be feeling.
The journey of adult friendship is defined by change, needing the ability to adapt, and empathise as we develop the complexities of life's many stages. It calls for a greater level of understanding and support, infinitesimally stronger than the basic bonds of childhood and college. As one approaches adulthood, a subtle shift occurs as personal responsibilities and different paths test the stability of these relationships.
Adult friendships have different expectations; these include the need for mutual development, different kinds of support, and the realisation that not everyone can be there for you when you need them. Friendships continue to play multiple roles, even though circumstances may change. They can be sources of support, comfort, and happy moments spent together.
Confronting my expectations and embracing change, I did not think the work I put into a friendship would influence how much my friends would always be around. I realised that although we may not be able to be as close as we once were, friendships still go through and take on new forms. Not everyone can support one another in the same way, and friendships can take on different forms at different stages of life.
As I get older, I definitely realise that friendships have many roles and faces, each serving a specific purpose. Some friends could act as my confidants, providing me comfort when things get tough. Some friends might support me and aid in my professional and personal growth, while others might just be my go-to pals for impromptu coffee dates.
Understanding the demands of a busy life, I have come to learn the value of spending quality time together over just glossing through the big events. I have gotten used to not finishing our conversations over a call or via text. I see that everyone feels lonely sometimes, they can feel left out too. I have learned to show unconditional love to my friends without expecting anything in return.
I now realise that relationships naturally change as life progresses and that these shifts are not a reflection of my own shortcomings but rather an important part of the complex journey that is life. Despite not always being in constant communication, I have realised the importance of being there for each other during the highs and lows. I am yet to completely accept these changes, and I hope to do so eventually. Because I know for a fact that even if I do not talk to my friends on a regular basis, I will show up for them in their time of need, and I am sure they will do the same, without batting an eyelid.
I am slowly starting to understand the ever-changing character of these relationships by realising that friendships go through phases, just like life does. Some friends may enter our lives suddenly and have an impact that lasts, while others may stick around for a while and play an important part in our story later on. But I will always be grateful for my friends, who have shaped me into the somewhat functional adult that I am today.