08 October, 2015

Doing friendship at 29

Friends are the business. They are the family you get to choose. They are the cherry on your cake, the stars in your sky, your support bra, your walking stick, the cushions in your en suite. And while I have a decidedly beautiful array of cushions and walking sticks, my twenties have proven a challenging time for friendships.

Not because my friends haven’t been the bollocks throughout, oh how they have, but because life takes us increasingly away from our mates. As much as they are the very THING we probably most benefit from spending time with (subject to Significant Others), they can be the hardest to get to. On my list of “hurdles between me and my support network” I have; challenging jobs and long hours, money (not enough of), time (not enough of), responsibilities, marriages and kids (not mine), and pure geography. Nipping for a coffee with your best mate isn't as handy when they’re at the bottom of the M1.

Yet these aren't the relationships you can maintain with the occasional endorsement on LinkedIn, these are the ones that need serious face time, dammit. And while Apple cottoned on quick and gave us FaceTime, even that isn't the same as a real human hug and a chat with the ones who build you up. Even with the best will in the world, it can be so hard to make the time to spend with good friends. You can value someone with your life, and see them but once a year.

As I get close to 30 though, I am really proud of the group of friends I have around me. Not only did I find the confidence to cleanse the knob’ed ones out in my early twenties, but of the group of us left standing, we stand so strong, because we have been to BATTLE together. We have stood the test of time and distance, we have grown and changed and done our twenties to death, and we reach 30 with a tighter bond than ever.

For me, maintaining good friendships in adulthood takes commitment, understanding, and the ability to let go – as with any relationship.

Commitment to the fact that even if you can’t see each other for 6 months, you really want to and you WILL make it happen and you’ll send Whatsapps, tweets, emails and cards aplenty in between.

Understanding that if a friend lets you down sometimes, that doesn’t make them a bad one. It just means they got stuck at work , or they got a broken leg, or they accidentally opened all the food in their fridge and needed to finish it whilst keeping an eye on the TV. Can you say multitask? For me it's about recognising that when a friend sometimes can’t make it to us when we need them, they are still a great friend. And instead of feeling let down we say “that’s okay, life is hard, eat the ice cream, I’ll still be here when the sugar wears off.”

Letting it go when your friend hasn’t been exactly who you wanted them to be. So they slept through your lunch plans, or they forgot to call, or they bought the shoes you were coveting. Let it go. Seriously. Because unless they slept with your boyfriend or sold your favourite Nan, the only friends you should be keeping are the ones who can get away with sometimes f*cking up, because the rest of the time they are just there for you, championing you, supporting you and being mega great.

Above all that, it's remembering why you are friends. My best friend from school and I live such different lives. We live 200 miles apart. We have completely opposite working schedules and move in different worlds. She's amongst beauty, glitz and glamour every day. I work in a digital bubble. My most glamorous possession is posh humous. To summarise: last weekend she was hitting up festivals and I was baking fig rolls.

In many ways we couldn't be more at odds. And sometimes that’s really hard. But, we keep our sh*t together. We are right there for every birthday, every break-up and every hilarious blunder. We still value all the same qualities in each other that existed 12 years ago, we just have to fight a little harder now we aren't sat next to each other in Psychology.

But these mates of mine, they are worth every long phone call, every mile, every hungover drive home, because I treasure them so very much. Good things happening to my friends is as good as good things to happening to me. I am proud of all their successes, and celebrate them as if they were my own. I’ll always invest my last bit of energy in maintaining these precious gems. And they do the same for me. I recently left my friend an audio Whatsapp late on a Sunday night, from what can only be described as my death bed, to explain I’d not replied as I’d been throwing up all day and unable to read words after downing doubles until 4am. But I could't NOT reply. I mean if that’s not commitment. 

This post was inspired by an article I read the other day about the importance of holding onto good friends. It said “tell your friends you love them now, and if they've hurt you or pissed you off, get over it, get round it, get through it, because you just don’t know what is ahead.” I nodded and grunted vehemently at every word. So much so that the man next to me offered me a hanky.


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