There are many things about aging that aren’t altogether fun. To me, the worst one is the way time seems to be speeding up. I remember thinking a day was a lifetime. Now, a month feels as short as a week, and a week as fast as a day. Looking on the bright side, however, there are a few things I adore about getting older. At the top of my list: deep, supportive, joyous friendships. Without a single doubt, I have never enjoyed my friends more. I have never shared more secrets, had more laughs, or been more lifted by the best friends in my life.
I have been thinking about this a lot now that the school year has started again. My son is only 4, but he has begun to tell me about issues with his friends, such as mean things they say to one another. It makes my heart ache as it reminds me of the difficulties and complications I endured in friendships as a child. None of them were terrible. For example, I was never bullied. I also recognize they were formative experiences that brought me to the positive place I am in today. Yet, so many of them were hard. And reliving the experiences that have brought me where I am today has given me great insight into why my friendships have gotten better as I have gotten older.
For starters, in school, we don’t really get to choose our friends. Especially in smaller classes, our options are so limited. Second, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t yet have a strong sense of self. We don’t know who we are and what we like. It’s, therefore, difficult to find the people you really resonate with because you yourself are full of questions about what you actually are drawn to. Finally, we also don’t have the confidence to stand for what we believe in and let the criticism roll off our backs.
As I creep towards my 40s, I finally know who I am, I am happy to stand for it, and I don’t have time to spend on people I don’t really resonate with. This has been life changing because I have also come to see the cruciality of true friendships at this stage in my life. So much is demanded of me on a daily basis: I pour myself out for my kids, my husband, my work, my home. Of course, these efforts come with great rewards, and I get a lot out of being so much for them all. But when it comes to my best friends, I get the rewards with very little effort. And the thought that there is something in my life that demands so little of me and gives me so much in return makes me giddy!
And so, along with learning how to choose my friends so that I am surrounded with people who fulfill me, I am also teaching myself to constantly connect with these women. I am often swamped to the point of overwhelm. In the past, I would shove my friendships to the side to make room for everything else. I can understand my decision since I didn’t always have friends who lifted me up (except for you, Lis!), but things are so different now. A five minute conversation with my best friends or a back and forth over text where I share my true feelings makes such a difference to me emotionally. I now see that while these exchanges may take time, they also miraculously create time as they put me in a happier, more productive space.
When I think of these women and how they make me smile, I don’t feel so bad about the crow’s feet or even the fact that I have such little time to myself. It took me years of living to get to a point where I could have friends like them. They are worth the aging!