Friendships are difficult to define, especially if you are a woman.
When I think about my life, there have been so many friends fade in and out of my life. There have been people I thought were my friends who turned out to be enemies. There have been people who I thought would just be acquaintances turn out to mean so much. There are people who were important for a single stage of life. There are people who have been there through many more.
At twenty-eight, I've come to learn that friendship doesn't always last forever. Then again, sometimes it does.
The quote above is one of the truest quotes I've learned. Interestingly enough, it came on a friendship frame from a person I stopped being friends with long ago.
In life, friendships can sometimes fade. They can change.
But the true friends, the ones who really impact you, do leave a footprint,a mark, an indelible stamp of themselves on you.
Below, some lessons I've learned at each stage so far.
Early Childhood Friendship
When I think back to some of these first friendships, I smile. My first friend ever was a neighbor boy named Thomas. I can still remember the first day we met. I still have a scar from falling on my bike when we were playing. It was a time marked by simplicity and innocence, of carefree bike rides and outdoor games. It was, in short, a beautiful time in life.
In Kindergarten, I became friends with several girls. Cue female friendship drama. I can still think of some of my close friends from elementary school. I can also picture all of our silly fights, our arguments, and the tears, too.
Early friendships seem simple, but they really aren't. A friendship in Kindergarten can easily be tainted by a dropped Pop-tart or a Barbie being named the wrong name. I learned early on that girls can be really mean and dramatic. I learned friendships aren't permanent. I learned sometimes you end up playing alone.
But young friendships can also be some of the purest forms of connection. They aren't completely tainted with the fear of social pressures or fitting in. They're usually pretty pure.
Looking back , these friendships can set the tone for our relationships later in life. They teach us how to get along, how to compromise, and how to move on sometimes.
High School Friendship
The best years, right?
For the most part, yes. These were the years of sleepovers and movies, of mall shopping trips and laughter. These were the years I had the most friends.
It's funny how in high school, you think you'll be friends forever. Adults warn you, but you don't listen. Those gleaming best friends necklaces won't ever rust. You'll never lose touch.
And then you do.
I still talk to some of my friends from high school. Social media has made it easier, for sure.
There's only one person I'm really still in contact with, despite some distance. Kristin, my best shopping friend, fellow bookworm, literature lover, cat lover, and everything else in between, still keeps in touch. We still laugh about our favorite memories, from a winking Santa card to the time I almost choked to death on a piece of gum. Even when we faded out of each other's lives for a while, she was always still there. She was one of the footprint makers in my life, and she will always be such an integral part of my fondest memories of the past and my hope for new friendship memories in the future.
High school friendships help us transition into adult life. They remain a part of us because they are a part of our fundamental years. Sure, there's a heck of a lot of drama. Some of the girls I thought were my friends turned out to be mortal enemies. I was stabbed in the back, gossiped about, and argued with. But it turned out to be a good thing. Even those friendships in high school that go awry prepare us for the tough, no nonsense world of criticism and falsehoods.
College is tough. Gone are all the friends you grew up with, the ones you saw every day at school. You're starting over, you're starting fresh.
And for the first few days, you're alone.
You walk alone. You sometimes sit alone. You (cringe) sometimes eat alone, something that would have been social suicide in high school.
It's an adjustment. You learn to be independent. You learn friendships truly do come and go.
For me, my college years consisted of one constant friend, though, a girl who is still one of my best friends. Jamie.
We met in religion class. I saw her, thought she looked nice. We both had bangs, both were a bit quiet in class. So I choose to sit beside her.
It turned out to be the best choice I made. Once we got to talking, we literally never stopped. Like not for a second. Chad laughs when we're together, saying we never stop talking.
College is stressful. There's a lot of work, a lot of times you don't think you can make it. Despite popular belief, socializing sometimes takes the bottom rung on your priority list. For me, though, I was lucky to have Jamie by my side to make me laugh when I wanted to quit, to commiserate over crazy classes with, and to dance with clay with the Black Potter. We had so many good memories and still are making more. From boyfriends (now husbands) who were stuck in a heart to Jesus in a tree to Sheetz Mochas to dancing to Grease, we made more memories in four years than I've made with others in decades.
College friends come into our lives when we're in transition, when we're trying to grow up. But keeping your college friends close is such a gift because when you are grown up, they remind you of the fun, crazy times. They remind you not to let go of that person you were, the person with a vision, with a dream, with passion.
Growing up sucks. Adulting sucks. Seriously.
Friendship in your adult years can be tough. Time becomes a big hurdle. Between work life, family life, and laundry, when the heck do you have time for friendship, for jaunts to the mall, for careless dinners out?
You don't. You just have to make it.
Friendships during the adult years are kind of a culmination of everything you learn earlier. These friendships are marked by time and distance sometimes. Sometimes friendships work better during certain periods of your life than others. Sometimes friendships fade because of convenience or different life stages.
We've had friends slip away because of a major fact: they have children and we don't. Children can sometimes change the face of friendship, change the connections you once had.
But that's okay. Friendship, like life, is all about changing. Nothing is a constant.
Thus, in adulthood, I think I've come to realize the best friends you will ever have are the one's who sort of have to be there. Your family.
My parents, my husband, my extended family--these are the friendships that have stood the test of time. These are the people I go to when I want to laugh or when I need to cry. These are the people I always make time for, I always prioritize. These are the people who have left footprints tattooed on my heart, but never slip away.
Some friends stay for a few months or for a few years. Some of these friends are forgotten, their impact slipping away and irrelevant in a new stage of life. Some of them mark us, for better or worse, and change who we are, how we see friendship.
Family, though, are the people who mark us with their footprints and stay to see how those footprints change us.
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