In my apartment there are photos everywhere. On my bookshelf, in front of the TV, on my fridge. The majority of them are in the same frames they’ve been in since college, carted from dorm room to apartment to my parents’ house and now to my own place.
For the most part I haven’t given them much thought. But then, last night, I realized something. The majority of the people in those photos are people I never see. In some cases, they’re not even considered friends these days. Not due to any particular falling out, just time and distance.
It’s a bit stunning to look around and realize the faces staring back at you aren’t in your life anymore. At least not on any meaningful level.
What’s even more thought-provoking is that the group of people who I do consider friends today — who aren’t represented in the photos lining my apartment — is a much smaller group than illustrated in all these snapshots of the past.
I think it’s something we all struggling with in our 20s. It’s a time of transition. Long gone are the days of being able to knock on your dorm neighbor’s door and find an immediate friend. There aren’t classes and clubs and side jobs that are just a conduit to your next BFF.
Instead, there’s distance as you go your separate ways to follow your dreams. And work schedules that prevent you from having any social interaction during the work day with the coworkers that have become your best friends in — and out — of work. After all, the office has become your new dorm, but with more responsibility and less time for bullshitting. Co-workers have become the people you’re spending all your time with, going through highs and lows and everything in between.
One of my best friends is someone I met at work and we bonded over bad break-ups several years ago. We spent 10 days touring Italy together. And yet, we’re both so busy with work and life that we rarely see each other these days.
Because now, it’s not just distance that changes relationships, it’s the new priorities that growing up brings: boyfriends who turn into husbands. Babies. One of the few people I’m still close to from college lives three hours away. She’s been married for a couple years and just got pregnant.
The distance had already taken its toll on our relationship, but marriage and kids insert a whole different layer. It’s not that I’m unhappy about the different routes our lives have taken, but I miss my friend. It’s not that we’re not friends anymore, but it’s a different friendship.
Sure, on Sex and the City they all have fabulous lives and fabulous careers and somehow still have plenty of time to get together and gossip about sex toys and the latest fashion. In real life, those prime opportunities come around rarely. Which is sad, because we need those friend connections more than anything. Yet once we are thrust into adulthood, it gets harder and harder to find and keep them. I don’t know if it’s that we lose our ability to make friends, or we lose that opportunities to find friends.
Whatever it is, the friend gap is becoming more and more apparent as the years go on.