The International Day of Friendship is celebrated worldwide with the notion that friendships across peoples, countries, and cultures can promote peace and build community. To me, it’s looking for the good in others. Standing in solidarity. Giving one another grace. Reflecting on and celebrating past, present, and future relationships.
(You heard me right! Celebrating PAST relationships is part of that sentence.)
Have you ever gone through a friendship divorce? If you haven’t, allow me to assure you it’s a real thing – and it truly is as painful as a breakup with a significant other. Should you find yourself facing this situation one day, I highly recommend the book Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, by Irene S. Levine. In it, Levine writes:
“Myth: Best friends are forever. (Re: best friend necklaces in fourth grade.)
Reality: Most friendships don’t last forever, even the best of them. Rather, a large majority of friendships tend to be fragile and impermanent relationships over a season of our lives. It’s not unusual for best friends, who once played leading roles in the story of our lives, to fade away completely or only return to make a cameo appearance. The quality of a relationship rather than its duration is a more realistic measure of the meaningfulness of a friendship.”
Read that again. Sit with it.
Even though it has been 10 years since I read Levine’s book, I think about the magnitude of that statement often. How absolutely beautiful is it that a friendship can, and should, be measured by its quality rather than its duration?
She goes on to say, “It’s a mistake to think that the ending of a close relationship invalidates the authenticity of what came before. That is simply not true. At the time that you clicked, your stars were aligned. Try to think about the things you learned and gained from the relationship.”
Instead of focusing on erasing people from our lives, what if we shifted that energy to finding gratitude for what those people brought us? Lately, I’ve been doing just that. I’ve been thinking a lot about my many unique seasons of friendships and what I’ve learned and gained from each.
The Different Seasons of Friendship
In high school, friendships and relationships are all-consuming. I would put money on it that it was a high schooler who came up with the hashtag #allthefeels because you sure learn to navigate a whirlwind of emotions, feelings, and firsts throughout those years. While I may not have felt it in my bones at the time, man am I thankful for that one-stoplight town, surrounded by cornfields, and all of the people who helped shape me.
In college, you meet your people. At least I did.
- On a beautiful fall day in 2002, I met my potluck roommate at the Harvard of the Midwest: Indiana University. Together, we spent the entirety of freshman year learning what it meant to leave home, start over, and grow up. For many reasons, the friendships I built that year were extremely powerful.
- Sophomore year I began working at a local restaurant. There’s something uniquely special about the bonds you create with coworkers in the restaurant industry, especially when everyone is trying to balance their need for income with their desire for an active social life. You work hard and play hard, together. My colleagues became family, albeit a dysfunctional family…!
- I also joined a sorority. Listen, if you didn’t do the whole Greek thing, I totally get how bizarre it looks from the outside (“Z… Z… Z-T-A… ZETA…” the singing, dancing, and shouting is quite a sight during recruitment). But it was, without a doubt, the best decision I made in college. The majority of my wedding party consisted of sorority sisters, and many of those ladies are still the first people I tell when something good or bad happens in my life.
After college, you join the workforce. It’s when I became a teacher and was entrusted with my very own class of fourth-graders to lead. God bless my principal and those veteran teachers who took me under their wings and taught me everything I never learned in undergrad. My fellow educators became my lifelines. They were the friends with whom I planned curriculum, exchanged hilarious student stories, vented about cringe-worthy emails from parents, and enjoyed weekend cocktails. We were pretty much inseparable.
That brings me to today, the ripe age of 37. I have strengthened many friendships throughout the different seasons of my life, said: “thank you”/”goodbye” to those which no longer suited me, and also picked up ‘couple friends’ with my husband, ‘mom friends’ with my kiddos, and a host of other friendships along the way.
And while I am grateful for each unique friendship and the role it has played in my life, I have to be honest with you – there is something EXTRA special about friends who have walked with you through multiple seasons of your life. You know… the friends who were there to hold your hair back at 20 and still there to hold your hand as they admired your engagement ring at 30… the friends who showed up to hold your firstborn in their arms and also showed up to hold your heart in their heart as you said goodbye to a parent. That’s truly something special. To those friends… I wouldn’t be ME without YOU. Thank you for all of the memories we’ve shared, the ways we have grown together even while growing separately, and all that is ahead in the years to come.
:: CELEBRATION ALERT ::
Are you looking for a way to celebrate a weekend in Charleston with your dear friends? Check out this post to see how a few of my girlfriends and I ate and drank our way through Charleston.