I recognized this pattern early, as far back as middle school actually, when an argument broke up the best friendship I had ever had. We even shared a first name. For about a year, we did everything together. And then we split. I would lose my best friend from high school in a similar way soon after graduation (We would reconnect 18 years later - and now are best of friends again). And in college, a falling out my sophomore year left me again searching for connections.
|Me, in my 40s. And not caring.|
In each case, the "why" was different. Maybe it was over a boy. Or a betrayal. Or just mistrust. But my reaction was always swift and stubborn: They would be gone, and I would cling harder to other pieces of my life. And I would start the search for friends again.
In my 20s, I discovered work friendships, a kind of camaraderie that grows from a common, shared experience. Like hating your boss. Or grousing over a menial task. Work friends were plenty, always around to commiserate about anything. The circle changed from job to job - widening here, narrowing there. Some would grow into real friendships. Lasting friendships. But always, there were work friends.
At home, they were harder to come by. I'm talking about those neighborhood friends. The ones that just pop over to borrow a cup of sugar, a romantic notion likely fueled in my mind by Hollywood but nevertheless something I always longed for. And perhaps because I felt I could never find it. In one neighborhood I lived in, I was too young. In another, I felt like everyone around me had plenty of friends and no need to add one more. So I kept trying. I'd host Pampered Chef parties, chat people up at the playground. Even try the whole sugar routine myself. What the hell. It could work. Maybe?
In my 30s, there were the "parents of your kids' friends" friends. You know, the mom that you meet through a playdate or by volunteering at your daughter's 1st grade school Halloween party. The other dance moms. Your fellow Girl Scout leader. I had some success here, and count a few of my good friends from among this list. But still, it was a challenge to make real connections.
But now, in my 40s, I think I made the best discovery of them all. And it happened at a PTA fundraiser at my son's elementary school. That had been the annual place where a lot of my circles collided - work friends, neighborhood friends and parents of my children's friends would all be there. So I would care and I would try. It was a breeding ground for new friendships. Except this year, older and wiser, I walked in, look around at all the faces and realized:
I didn't care.
All these years of searching and looking, adding and subtracting friends, and I didn't care. I had friends. Old friends. New friends. Work friends. And tons of family friends - a category I didn't even mention above but that is probably the most dear to me.
And so it just occurred to me, finally. Finally. Finally. That I don't need to chase anything. I don't need to always be on the hunt. That it's happened already - whether by my working at it or just organically. It's happened. And my days are full - actually, overflowing - with work and family.