When I take inventory of my life, I realize I’ve got a lot of things going for me. I have two healthy kids, and I’m in a happy relationship.
I love my job as a writer, and I still manage to find time for things like exercising, hobbies and lying around on the couch, watching Netflix. What I don’t have, and what I struggle the hardest to find, is a stable adult friendship.
I grew up during the reign of Friends on prime-time television, and I spent most of my college days kicking it in my dorm room while Sex and the City reruns played in the background. The idea of adult friendships seemed totally normal to me and like something I could count on to buoy me through the most complicated parts of my grown-up life. I was never the most popular person in the world, but I always had a steady group of friends I could rely on. I imagined those connections would only deepen as I got older and that, much like Monica Geller or Carrie Bradshaw, I’d always be a part of a tight-knit group.
Eventually I got older, started a family and shifted my focus to my career. I found that a lot of the friendships from my youth unceremoniously disintegrated. We were all moving and growing and changing — it seemed natural that some of us would inevitably drift apart. I noticed, though, that as people floated out of my life, it was getting more and more difficult to fill the gaps they left behind.
About three years ago, my husband was offered an incredible job opportunity, and we made the decision to move our small family halfway across the country. I made gallant efforts to find friends initially, attending book clubs, play groups and stroller tours at the art museum. But as event after event passed and I still found myself with no plans for the weekend or being excluded from the groups I thought had maybe shown a twinge of interest in me, I slowly gave up the chase.
It’s tempting to think that maybe it’s just me, but if there’s one thing adults seem to bond over with unfailing ease, it’s how ridiculously difficult it is to make friends. Think about the friendships you made in your youth. All of them probably had a few things in common:
- You saw the same people every day, or at least every few days, so there was ample time for repeated interactions.
- You were close in age and going through many of the same things, so the “me too” moments came quickly, and bonds formed easily from there.
- You had very few obligations in your life forcing you to choose between a night out, responsibilities to other people or some much needed time to yourself.
Conditions are different as we get older. We have a million things pulling us in a billion and a half directions. Two people who are the same age could have wildly different circumstances, lifestyles, values and beliefs. Opening up is harder because you’re old enough to know now that you have flaws and faults, that there are things about you that others just plain might not like. Also, loneliness is difficult to admit. It’s hard to say, “I’m looking for a friend, and I like you. I’d like to spend more time together.”
Friends are harder to find in adulthood because there are barriers to closeness now that simply didn’t exist when we were younger. They aren’t insurmountable barriers, but they still require work, effort and a meeting of the minds that might not happen no matter how many times you invite that one woman from your book club to coffee.
If I had time every single day to devote to going out and meeting people or fostering existing connections, I might find that a few would evolve into something deeper. As it stands, I’m already divided between a husband, two kids, my job, my chores and the 10 minutes I desperately wish I had to unwind. If we could skip the small talk and fall in friendship-at-first-sight, I might have a chance at that Carrie Bradshaw gaggle of besties. Until then, I’ll be the one at the movies by myself, hoping an equally lonely 30-something with great shoes plops down beside me.