On Growing Up & Losing Friends

"If you're not losing friends, you're not growing up."

When I saw this quote (while mindlessly scrolling through my instagram feed) I stopped. I set my phone down and just stared at it like it was someone I might have known but couldn't quite place.

It was one of "those" posts—you know, the ones we come across every now and then, on various social medias, that actually make you feel something. They can be few and far between but, when you find them, they somehow make you feel less alone—understood by someone unknown. 

But, with this one, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Did I love it? Or did I hate it? Sometimes the physical feeling of the two can be similar—tingly, lightheaded, suddenly aware of the functions that keep you alive, like the air slowly releasing from your lungs and the blood pumping through my heart.  

I know it is just a silly quote but, for me, it held a lot of accusation.  It proposed some questions I wasn't sure I wanted to answer.  It got me thinking:

Am I growing up? Does that make me a bad friend? Does keeping the friends I have mean I am no longer growing as a person? Is that something that needs to be changed to do so? And who in the eff wrote this quote?! 

I've come to find out that your 20s are a very strange time for the friendships we keep in life.  You are trying so hard to make, maintain, adjust, and sort through friendships, all at once, which can be incredibly taxing.

You want to make new friends on your new chosen path (college, work, motherhood, etc.), while making sure the old don't feel left out. You're also trying to adjust a close friendship to a newly found distance, for those that have moved away, all while trying to decide if you should even be friends with some of them at all— It's exhausting. (See my post How to Break Up With Your Best Friend for more advice on that final decision.)

So, after reading this quote, I decided I needed to reassess where I stood on the issue of friendships now that I am rounding out my 20s. (Hey, I still have two more years—don't take it away from me just yet!) I needed to take some inventory and reflect on where I have stood on the topic in the present as well as in the past.

My teenage years were 110% dedicated to my friends.  I threw that extra 10% in there because my friends always came first back then.  They came before school, before boys, before family, before myself—they came before EVERYTHING. Their problems were MY problems. Their happiness was MY happiness.  Their lives were MY life.

I was so enamored with the idea of friendship that when I had my first real boyfriend in my freshman year, I wouldn't even let him sit with me at lunch—seriously! (Believe me, I want to go back in time and kick my own ass, too. But don't worry, we started dating again 7 years later and he is totally allowed to sit with me at lunch now.)

I had convinced myself that lunch period was a time that should be dedicated to my friends and only my friends. I didn't want them thinking I wasn't committed to our realationships.  Boy, did I have that one backwards.

Now, I am not saying that friendships are not important because they really, really are. (Read THIS post.) I'm only saying that I definitely needed to learn and understand that you can have close friends and a cool boyfriend at the same time.

Once I broke up with my first high school sweetheart, I decided that having a boyfriend was all together just too much work. I had my friends and that took of plenty of my time.  I did not "date" a boy again until I was nineteen—19!  Now, there really is nothing wrong with that—I had the time of my life being the eternal and always available party girl and go-to bestie—but it got really lonely after awhile.

And, when I finally met a boy that I really, really liked, guess what I did?  I broke it off with him because he didn't "fit in" with my current FRIENDS. (Can someone pass me my nun attire, please? This girl is keeping her V-card forever!) 

What's worse, is that I actually "fit in" more with him and his friends (they were all country kids) at that time than I did my own, but I was too afraid of disappointing my friends. This would be the last time my friends dictated my feelings in a relationship but, it's safe to say, it was one time too many.

So—back to the quote—it was pretty obvious that I was not growing as a person with these friendships.  And I definitely needed to lose some of them to do some serious growing up.  And that's exactly what I did in my early 20s.

My so-called forever and ever and ever friends were dropping like flies in my early 20s—and not just because either one of us had decided to call it quits.  College, careers, marriage, husbands, babies, distance and so much more, were all factors in losing some of my friends.  

At first, these were hard facts for me to swallow because (speaking honestly) I didn't have a lot of these things.  Since I wasn't joining them on many of these journeys, I thought they were betraying me by conforming to these "adult" things. I began to resent them. I resented them because I felt betrayed.  I felt like I had dedicated so much of my life to these friendships—put so much on hold for them—that now it was my time to be put first.

This was an incredibly unfair and misled thought that I needed to deal with.  

It took me all of my mid 20s to realize this:

It was my decision to dedicate my valuable time to relationships that had no guarantee of being valuable—Learning to accept this fact and move on is priceless.

Yes, losing some friends definitely helped me grow—but resenting them only stunted that growth.  Once you can accept that someone can no longer be your friend, and still be a good person who is deserving of a good life, is when you hit your growth spurt!

So, release the bitterness you hold inside.  Stop trying to make something work if it doesn't feel right.  Stop holding onto someone just because they are all you know.  Let each other go so that you can both GROW.

You want to know something wonderful that I have learned in my late 20s?  Sometimes, friends return to you.  

They return with the understanding that, in order for the friendship to work, time is valuable.  And no matter how much or how little time is spent together, that time will be valued, cherished and deserved.

They also understand that there are some things that you will (more often than not) need to put first. Your partner, your family, and what is best for yourself, will require them to take a backseat in your life from time to time.  A good friend is not hurt by this. A good friend understands that you are a part of each other's lives now to enhance them—not complicate them. 

A best friend never stands in the way of what is best for you.

So, do I agree with the quote? Somewhat. I can see where the person that wrote it is coming from—I have been in that place before.  But I hope they don't get too caught up in it.  I hope they decide to keep a few of those friends around.  I hope not all of their bridges turn to ash.   

Because I have a different thought I'd like them to consider:

If you're losing good friends, you're wasting an opportunity to grow yourself. 

Friends for now, friends for five minutes, friends for life—whatever the time period may be, they are all a gift. They are the evidence of the moments we recognized ourselves in someone else and opened our hearts to allow them inside. Even when they end poorly, we are richer in spirit for taking the risk.

It takes trust to decide to be a friend. It takes a great amount of love to be there for someone.  And it takes a lot of forgiveness to mend the frays that life tears between two people along the way.

Without that kind of love, trust, and forgiveness, you might grow up—but you, my friend, will never flourish.

Charlotte Crow

I'm a modern day farmer's daughter who shares and seeks inspiration from the comical & beautiful things that get caught in life's curious little web.