Life has been a bit of a whirlwind, lately. It’s been a no-sleep, going-going-going, wait-what-day-is-it?! constant. And in the midst of the crazy, a friend said the sweetest words to me the other day – the kind of “I didn’t know I needed that, but wow I needed that” unexpected goodness that soothes your soul a bit. We were catching up and she said, “Hey, I know you – and you’re doing the best you can.”
One of the most beautiful things to me is being known by my People. I spent a whole lot of my life guarded – even to those closest to me – and the past few years have been a lot of un-doing, a lot of breaking down walls brick by brick. When people know me, it still catches me off guard. It still stops me in my tracks a bit. It still overwhelms me, in the best way.
Everyone tells you life after college is hard, and mostly it’s because friendships after college are hard. When I first heard about this, I laughed at the post college blues. Ha. Whatever. Not gonna happen to me.
But last year two of my favorite people moved up north. That sucked.
This summer, my best friend moved across the country. That really sucked.
Then a few weeks ago, I hugged another friend goodbye. And I’m realizing this is an unfortunate trend. One I don’t like – but one I can’t stop.
In the transition to long distance friendship, in the transition of life-after-college, in the transition to adult friendships – I’ve learned a few things. I don’t know everything and these aren’t magical answers; but in my life, lately, they have made all the difference.
Spoil Your Friends
Some seasons of life are extra, extra hard. Make the effort to spoil your friends when you know they need it. Amazon Prime them little surprises. Venmo them $4 for coffee when they are having a hard Monday. Text them something thoughtful just because it’s Tuesday – or better yet, snail mail them a lovenote. I had some friends go through some rough shit this year. Does buying them a candle fix everything? No. Does buying them a candle make life feel a bit more manageable, at least for five seconds? Yes.
It doesn’t have to be monetary. It doesn’t have to be unique. Sometimes just being outlandish in the amount of time you’re willing to spend with a friend, sometimes just calling them extra often during a hard week – spoiling people comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, in some seasons, people need you to be Extra.
Psssssssst if you are like me (“I can do everything! I don’t need anyone! I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine!”) the inverse of this is also true: let your friends spoil you back. Let them pay for your pedicure when they offer. Let them call and check in. Let them show up in ways you wouldn’t have expected. Welcome the surprises, welcome the attention.
Hold them Loosely…
Here’s a secret I bet you are completely unaware of: people change. Your friend is not the same friend she was 2 years ago; your friendship is not the same it was 2 years ago. Sometimes that’s really, really beautiful. Sometimes that’s really, really hard.
The best thing I’ve learned with adult friendships is to hold each other loosely. I wish I had been able to do this with more people in my life during college. Don’t box people into who they used to be, don’t force them into spaces they used to fill in your life. Allow them the freedom and the space to flourish, give some breathing room to let your friendship turn into something new. Some friendships last for a season – that’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s also a healthy vitamin to take. Some friendships weather the storms and new seasons bring new growth every time. Holding each other in open hands allows wiggle room to figure out who you each are in this particular season, and what you each need from the relationship.
…BUT Cherish them Dearly
At the same time, hold on to your People with everything in you. Don’t box them in, but also don’t take them for granted. Don’t force something that shouldn’t be, but also don’t let a friendship deteriorate simply because life changed.
There are friends of mine I talk every few months, some even once a year; people in my life I don’t see as often as I’d like – but they mean so much to me. Their friendship is so important to me. They are major people in my life, even when we have a minor amount of time together. We have respected that life has put it where it has put us – but we still hold our relationship close. We still value each other, the knowledge and the depth and all the good things, so dearly. Proximity, or even frequency, isn’t always the measure of closeness or richness. Be sure to cherish your People.
Fangirl Your Friends
Sometimes you just have to take a second to let people know HEY, YOU ARE EFFING AWESOME. I don’t know about you, but I have some of the most ridiculously wonderful people in my life. I watched a friend get her PhD recently and I’m forever in shock of how brilliant she is. Two close friends of mine are currently growing humans – which, hi, is a miracle, and they also work full time jobs. I have some of the wisest, funniest, fabulous, beautiful women in my life. Sometimes you just gotta remind them.
I have a great single ladies group text where we remind each other before dates all the great things about each other. I have a video-chat with my best friends where we vent to each other about all sorts of life – but then we turn around and challenge each other and speak truth into each other’s life and keep each other accountable to be more healthy humans. We continually say “hey I’m proud of you for this step” and “you are killing it in this area of life” and “can we take a moment and celebrate this????”
Constantly remind yourself how lucky you are to know these people, to have them in your life. Constantly remind them how lucky you are, to do life with them. It changes the way you go about friendship.
Hold Space for Resurrection
The hardest part of adult relationships? The ones that end. The ones that used to be a big part of your life, that used to be there for the big moments and – for various reasons – just aren’t anymore. This isn’t the “hold people loosely, allow them to change!” friends, but the “too much has changed and I don’t know if we are even considered friends?” friends. It happens. It’s hard.
What I’m learning is that even in the worst situations, even in the most painful break-ups (those happen in platonic relationships, too) – we have to hold space for resurrection. That can happen next month or in 10 years, it can involve forgiveness and redemption or maybe just a simple clearing of the air. But when we write people off completely, when we adamantly refuse that anything good can ever come – we hurt ourselves. We can keep healthy boundaries with people who have become unsafe and we can guard our time to invest in people who are worth investing in – but we can still hold space for a possible resurrection. Because we serve a God of resurrection, and we have to live out of that truth in our relationships.
Ultimately? Relationships are so hard. But also, sometimes, they are so very simple.