As My Friend List Shrinks, I Love How It Deepens
I’ve reached the age where my ideal Friday night involves pajamas, a couch, a book and being asleep by 10 o’clock. (ok, 9:30).
The 20- to 30-year-old version of me had a very different idea of an ideal Friday night. At twenty, I’d hope for a date, a bar or a large group of friends. At thirty, I still hoped for an invite of some kind. A dinner party or excuse to wear anything besides yoga pants or school clothes. I wanted to be included and invited and to laugh the loudest.
Don’t get me wrong; I still want to be invited, but I don’t always want to go.
Be Choosey When it Comes to Friendships
My life seemed to narrow in the last decade. Even before the pandemic, I found myself skipping events, not always responding to texts and working to strengthen my circle of friends rather than just grow it. I started to choose depth over width and have never regretted it.
One of my favorite childhood friends has a saying (well, actually it came from Al Capone), “Be careful who you call your friends. I’d rather have four quarters than 100 pennies.”
I’m always friend shopping, but as I get older I find I’m significantly more choosy about how I want to give my time and my stories to. Quarters are bigger and worth more than all the pennies.
Over the years I’ve seen my friend list decrease in size but increase in value. As I’ve hit hard times in my life, that couldn’t be more true. My circles have shrunk. The pennies have gotten lost and slipped through the cracks, but the value of my quarter friends has only grown.
Friendships Take Work
Friendships are easy when we are young. We stumble into them. I made my first best friend in second grade. I’d just moved to a new school and we met on the playground. We had the same chili bowl haircut but that might be where our commonalities ended.
As we age, friendships are both harder to make and to keep. They are work, yet we want them to be easy. It often takes a scheduling miracle to have dinner. I love getting to know new people and will never consider my dance card full, but maintaining friendships is work. It is an investment of time when I’d rather be on my couch. It is returning texts when I just want to respond later (which will turn into never). It is going first and sometimes second. It is saying you are sorry. It is letting that little stuff go. Quarters invest and apologize.
I’m not the easiest person to be friends with. I talk more than I listen. I speak before I think. I’m not always sensitive to the same things my friends are. I don’t mind a debate. I take up more space than I offer. I’m not the best secret keeper. I struggle to cut my losses. I have strong opinions. The quarters in my life are not perfect either, but what they do perfectly is show up when it matters. They are there to cheer me on and to ache with me. Quarters call you out on the hard stuff and fill you up when you are empty. I don’t need a hundred people to do this, only a few.
There’s Value in the Few
The other day a coworker was encouraging a friend whose son was going through a rough time at school. She told her, “all he needs is just one good friend.” One friend will make all the difference. One quarter.
My own kids have yet to find their best friend. I tell them, “don’t worry, I didn’t meet some of mine until my twenties.” I’m still finding them in my forties.
I pray for a friend like that for them, but unlike my coworker, I don’t ask for just one. I pray that they find a few quarters. I pray they have a generous, kind friend who is up for almost anything. I pray they have a loyal friend who may not always answer her phone but can always be counted on when it matters. I pray they have people to go on adventures with, and laugh with, but mostly that they have a place where they feel most themselves. A few people who they invest in and value are worth far more than 100 pennies. A few quarters are gold.
It’s hard to find and make time for friends as an adult! Here’s how you can keep up with them: How do I Connect with Friends when I Feel Alone? with Katie Cress – 165