Friendships have seasons and this season of friendship is a wintery one.
In my teens and 20s, I saw friends nearly every day and definitely on the weekends. I knew everything about their love lives, family challenges, school worries, and more. We shared clothes, food, secrets, and all our dreams. It was easy and, mostly, geographically convenient. My closest friends were people who lived in my college dorm or worked in the same office as me. We were unmarried, sans kids, and because we were all broke, we all wanted to do the same thing – spend as little money as possible while having the time of our lives.
But then slowly, we all started to become respectable members of society. We had jobs that demanded early wake hours and accountability, or we moved away to explore while we were young enough to easily do it. I led the charge in this last regard when I went to grad school in South Africa and then moved to London for work.
By the time I returned stateside years later, I had largely missed a seismic shift in friend dynamics. By the time we had collectively entered our ‘Dirty 30s’ stage of life, most friends had now gotten married, purchased first homes, had steady paychecks, and had begun to start families.
Shocked that the women whose hair I regularly held back every Friday night were now doctors with kids, I was out of step for a few years as I remained single and intensely career-driven. My friend season narrowed down to other high-flying professionals who similarly maintained transient lifestyles.
But then I too got married and joined the mom club. Back in step once more, I raced to play dates, toddler yoga, kids’ birthday parties, mommy wine dates, and girls’ trips to shop and drink. While busy raising kids and struggling with often being the solo adult around, my friendship season felt full and loving.
One of the quiet truths about the pandemic is that it changed not only our intimate relationships but also many of our friendships.
The struggles of pandemic life meant we lived in a bubble for a long time, we lost the easy flow of weekly meet-ups and casual conversations. While we quarantined, our kids got older and then entered school. We came out of our bubbles to a full schedule of kids’ extracurricular activities. I added the pressure of opening a gym and cutting drinking out of my life, hence further narrowing both my availability and the ease of social lubrication to get past my innate shyness.
This is a time of so much guilt.
I want to say yes to everything, but I’m mostly a maybe. I want to be on time for everything, but for me to say yes, it means I will leave one thing early to be late for another thing. Otherwise, I have to be a no.
I mean what I say when I say I miss you, but I’m at that initial flex of hustle muscle to move my business forward. I’ve put everything on the line. I want to go to drinks with you and I’ll happily drink sparkling water, but I know that I’m not reliable as a last-minute invite. I want to host parties at my house, but I have four small children who want to be a part of everything and a house that teeters on the brink of absolute chaos every day. I miss my friends terribly and in those rare moments where I can look up and reflect, I know that I’m a terrible friend right now.
For someone who always prided themselves on being a good friend, the dawning realization that I am a pretty sucky friend right now is not an easy revelation, but I own it. This season is one of sheer hustle and grind, but please know that I’m thinking of you and if it weren’t so late at night by the time I finally have a chance to breathe and talk, I’d call you right now. I know that I’m not an integral part of this season, but please hold space for me at the friendship table because seasons change and I’ll be back soon.