I will be 40 in two-weeks. Arriving at a time in my life where I am no longer considered “young” but I am still not considered “old”. It is an in between time I think and one I welcome with open arms. I envision my life and future continuing with new journeys and possibilities. The experiences and learning curves of my younger years now allow me to understand the naïve thought process that led me to make decisions that I would never make today. Yet, I have no regrets…mostly. Without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. Dilemmas that I struggled with in my youth, I could breeze through at 40. The one thing I wish I still had from my younger days, that is absent from my present, are true friendships. With age comes wisdom and responsibility.
Therefore, I take full ownership of my current circumstances, knowing there are no fingers to point outward, only in. While I celebrate reaching a milestone I must also accept I have unintentionally landed myself in a place that would have been foreign to me ten years ago, making the experience bittersweet. The women who graced my life through my teenage years, early twenties and the beginning of my thirties are gone. It happened slowly, gradually. Like a roadmap of memory I can look back and see when and how the unraveling began.
During high school I had the same friends all four years. After graduation, we drifted. One of my closest friends in our circle went away to college early to attend a summer program. She became angry when I did not reach out as often as she would have liked or returned her phone calls. She felt forgotten by me. She told me this in a letter, expressing that I didn’t care about remaining friends and now neither did she. Her words hurt but I would be lying if I said it hurt deeply. I was newly graduated from high school and stretching the boundaries of new adulthood. It was the summer before college. I still had plenty of old friends and was making new ones. If she no longer wanted to be friends it was her choice. The friendship wasn’t meant to go further I told myself. These were the thoughts of my younger self. The present me knows that my friend was just lonely. Away from her home, family, and friends for the first time, she was scared. A connection to me would have provided her comfort. Sadly, younger me was totally clueless and if I’m honest, selfish. I alienated what could have been a lifelong or current friendship to say the least.
As my twenties went by most of my high school friends were gone, but not totally. There were still shadows of those friendships. I kept them separated from my newer friends because they didn’t have much in common I thought. I began to compartmentalize my friendships. Not in a cold way, but almost as if it were a natural thing to do. Still, through my twenties I managed to hold onto a few deep friendships and bonds. My friends were important and necessary to me. Getting me through breakups and the outcome of bad decisions. Countless times we would nurse a bottle of wine, cry, and cheer ourselves up. I was thankful for them. We rarely let a day go by without speaking on the phone. Weekends were for bar hopping together and hanging out.
My thirties came and I met a wonderful man. The total opposite of the kind of guys my friends and I frequently dated. They encouraged the relationship and were happy for me it seemed. When I got married I noticed a slight shift. My friendships had changed again and I worried the connections I had taken for granted would no longer hold. I was a wife and new mother. Most of my friends were still single. My phone rang less. When I questioned them about this they would respond with, “I didn’t want to interrupt you guys” or “I figured you were busy”. Now it was they who drifted, and I was the lonely one.
I began having small gatherings at my house. Inviting friends that weren’t married but were in relationships. It was fun, and our bonds seemed to strengthen again. But then their relationships fell away or ended while my marriage continued. I was determined to keep a connection with these women, my friends. Even though, if I were honest with myself, at the time I was beginning to feel distant and apathetic. I planned girl’s night out like the “old days”. It was then I noticed my presence was no longer as warmly welcomed, but tolerated because of our history. They were still struggling in the dating scene, while for me it had become foreign territory. Now that I was in a healthy relationship I could see why they were stuck in bad ones. They seemed to have the same complaints, always directed at the men but never at their own choices. I saw them as taking no responsibility. A sure way to stay stuck in a bad situation. They were dating the same type of men who clearly did not want a relationship and were never going to commit. While I knew that I had done the same in my past, we were older now. How could they not see? I spoke too much when my advice was not requested or welcomed. Married me came off as judgmental and condescending.
What I have learned is while family is important to me and being a wife and mother are at the top of my list, I still need more. At the end of the day I’m still that funny girl that loves a good laugh over a glass of wine with my girlfriends. I miss those times. I still want and need that sisterhood and closeness. I am open to meeting like-minded women like myself and exploring the possibility of friendship. Through the years, I have learned that friendship isn’t perfect, but valuing one should be. When we start to lose sight of people in our lives, quite often it’s because we are just busy living and not paying attention. The thing about friends is that there’re not like family members. You get to choose these people. When bonds are formed, we must honor and respect them. My lessons have been harsh but I’m ready to be a better friend for the long haul.