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February 28, 2023
Dear Ms. Page,
I'm a decade out of college, and struggling with the natural transitions of adult life that mean friendships change and fade away. I'm torn between wanting to rekindle dwindling relationships and being grateful for my shrinking circle because it requires less maintenance. Will the attrition of friends continue as a life-long thing? Is it worth putting extra effort into reviving ones from past?
Dear Socially Stumped,
Let me first start by saying that your question is beautiful and relevant and, fortunately or unfortunately, it never gets easier to answer. Humans are social creatures, we long for connection, but we are also ever-evolving and changing organisms and so it makes sense for the make up of our friend group to change based on fluctuating needs and desires. However, knowing this does not make watching friendships that were once deeply significant to us change or fade away an easy experience.
People come into and out of our lives all the time and serve a variety of needs. Some friendships burn hot and fast and are of a limited-time-only kind; some friends are those you have for the majority of your life and you are able to grow and mature together. But all of these friendships should be cherished and valued because, and I can’t stress this enough, making friends and meeting people is hard. It requires vulnerability and courage and energy and sometimes it’s scary. Could there be a more terrifying moment than the one that exists directly after you’ve asked a new acquaintance if they want to hang out, get coffee, go for a walk? I’m going to say no, there isn’t. So congratulations! Mazel tov! You are a brave soul who has put themselves out there and made friends.
Accepting that your friend group will change to better reflect who you are and what your interests and values are as an adult is difficult because it means letting go of infinite possibilities, but possible because hopefully you're holding close the people who keep you alive in the present. Yes, you will lose some friends over the course of your life but it will be fewer than you think. Besides, just because things are quiet now with certain friends doesn't mean it will be that way forever. Certain people will circle back into your life quite naturally as opportunities arise and circumstances change. And if you want to rekindle a friendship go for it. Go for it! Don’t overthink it. Send that text! Mail that letter! Pick up that phone! Send that telegram! And even if it results in a once-a-year phone call with a friend there’s nothing wrong with that. Enjoy that relationship for what it is now rather than what it used to be.
One of the best ways expand your social circle is by making sure you are filling your own cup. Determining what fulfills you and brings you joy and happiness and then pursuing those things whether through a club or a class will bring you into contact with potential new friends in an organic way. I would in no way characterize myself as a “joiner” but when I cast a glance back on some newly made friends guess where I met them? A class. A club. Each and every time it was an unexpected delight.
I sometimes worry that my friends think I’m mildly unhinged because of the frequency with which I send, “Hey I just saw this thing and thought of you and I miss you and love you!” texts. There is still a distinct lag between when I write the text and when I hit send where I think, “Ms. Page, should you?” But more often than not I do hit send because I am thinking of my friends and I do miss and love them and I want them to know. Because in the end love and affection never go out of style.
Recommendations for Socially Stumped:
A group of adults reckoning with the failure of their earlier brilliance to manifest fulfillment in their 30s.
A story and guide about the importance of nourishing friendships over time and distance.
A life-affirming story about finding friendship in every stage of life.
A delightful pastiche that shows off the various shapes friendships and support systems can take.
This historical fiction pulls no punches when contending with the ways that friendships are morphed through challenge & change.
A book that acknowledges the pain and complexity friendship can carry. Not all of our recommendations will make you feel better, but they will at least help you feel seen.
A bittersweet read that's all about the right person, but the wrong times/circumstances, but still finding meaning in each other.
How to Break Up with Your Friends: Finding Meaning, Connection, and Boundaries in Modern Friendships (Hardcover)
A handy guide in establishing standards and boundaries in one's social life.