A Thank You To Real Friends

When we’re kids, a friend is an easy thing to come by. A friend is someone who has the same sneakers on as you and shares a pb&j sandwich on the playground at lunch. A friend is someone you see every day, in neat rows in classrooms, copying off each others’ homework. It’s someone you’re sure will be there when you get off the bus, someone who is a constant in your life, something certain. And school, the cocoon of being placed in the same building day in, day out, and even put into small groups together to do projects, enables us to slip into friendships that have the time and the freedom to form naturally. We find people that are really just like us, who make us feel like we’re not alone in the world, and who stay with us through thick and thin.

And as we get older, and as school turns into classes scattered across a huge campus, and then evaporates completely from our lives — friends become harder to come by. Without the constant socialization and ample free time, a friend is something you have a hard time carving out of your busy life, something that can be dropped from the day planner between the commute home and a trip to the grocery store. It’s easy to find yourself nervous and anxious when meeting new people, or thrust into new social situations, because now finding and maintaining a friendship is something you’ll have to do on your own. It’s something that you’ll have to plan around, make time for, and stay on top of like you would a work project. If you want to see someone, and for them to become a serious part of your life, it’s going to take effort — and a decent amount of risk. It could be, like with a romantic partner that fizzles out after a few tepid dates, that you two just weren’t meant to be.

So often, we settle. In a new career, a new city, a new apartment, we find ourselves stranded in a life where we can’t just call someone up any time of day and go “hang out” like we used to. Making new friends is incredibly intimidating, and even just finding the time to nurture something can be far too taxing. But we fear loneliness, we fear being excluded — so we fill our lives with acquaintances. There are coworkers, whom you talk to, but you probably wouldn’t hang out with if you weren’t forced to socialize. There are neighbors, who have the alluring convenience factor, but often not a lot of substance. There are friends of significant others, who come into your life peripherally and rarely become deep friends of your own. Our lives become filled with brunches, happy hours, dinner parties, and cocktails with people who are nice enough, but with whom we wouldn’t share a secret. With whom we wouldn’t cry. With whom we wouldn’t laugh until our stomachs ached. They are simply people to move around with, people who fill your life and your social calendar, people with whom you pass some time because to not do so would make you rude, would make you strange.

We can go weeks, even months, only being around these people. We can get used to the idea that going out is as much about networking and maintaining appearances as it is about actually enjoying your time. There is a resignation to the general idea that socializing can often be work in a different form — a way to maintain the polite and potentially useful connections you have formed elsewhere. Getting a beer with someone after work hours is something you propose because it seems appropriate, because it’s simply what you do. So what if the conversation’s tedious? So what if you have nothing in common? This is what adults do, right?

But then, a friend comes back into town, or perhaps they just get a break in their newly-packed schedule. For whatever reason, the stars align, and you’re able to be with someone for whom words are not enough. Your friendship — your love — is contained in gestures, in unspoken inside jokes, in discrete looks that say everything, in hugs, and in tear-inducing laughter. You’re reminded of everything that a friend truly is, and the ease with which you can share everything and catch up, with which you can make each other laugh and fundamentally understand is almost unsettling. What have you been missing out on? Have you forgotten that, at one point in your life, you only made time for the people with whom you shared absolutely everything? That the idea of making brittle social engagements with people you know out of necessity would be absurd? It’s as though you’ve forgotten what a friend itself really is, how wonderful it feels, and how affirming it can be of all that we love about life.

Sometimes we don’t thank our friends enough — for being there, for loving us, for being able to exist in the sidelines because of distance or schedules but come back into our lives with full force when the opportunity arrives. Our real friends, whose love and humor can lie dormant for stretches but doesn’t simply die, often go unappreciated. We owe them so much, and they are such a huge part of who we are, but we can often forget that as we construct our own lives. And we’ll surely make new friends as we grow — and are done stumbling into adulthood and everything that comes with it — but they won’t be a replacement, and we shouldn’t forget that. We owe it to ourselves to thank the people who have been there for us, and who remind us that we’ll always be worth more than just a handshake and an empty “we should grab a coffee soon.” TC mark

image – Jade Hewitt

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    When I was a kid, a friend was not an easy thing to come by.  I was the weird loner who was shunned.  Shunned!  Plus, I hated imaginary friends, so I didn’t even have those….just me, myself, and I. 

    • Angel

      i felt i had to keep up with appearances and hang out with kids i didn’t care about 

      at 11, so i’d  isolate myself a lot. feel you there.

  • Maja

    Have you read my mind recently? :)  Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/sunkenship87 Nguyen Phuong Thu

    I cried.

  • HI


  • Anonymous

    So often, we settle. In a new career, a new city, a new apartment, we find ourselves stranded in a life where we can’t just call someone up any time of day and go “hang out” like we used to.
    -So true!

    I recently entered that college phase were you just don’t see your long-time friends anymore, but the good thing about my country is that those friends never really get that far away from you, still I will miss the careless hours we spent together in school; plus,  I already felt that making friends in my school years was very taxing and getting in this new campus environment is just stressing emotionally speaking.  Every now and then I get to see the real friends I got to bond with in highschool that is one of the things that keeps me a little happier inside. That said, I learned many social skills in school that facilitate a little bit my friend making in college.

    Anyway, this was beautifully written ; I nearly cried .

  • Adamcrittenden

    Haiku #16

    You think I’m real,
    but only as real as a worm
    feeding on an apple’s insides.

  • MadGec

    This was great

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous


  • guestin'away

    This made me miss my best friends who are now long distance best friends. It’s hard to live so far away from the people you used to share everything with. 

  • shannon

    ever since i left my hometown, i decided it wasn’t worth it to have half-assed non-friendships. i’d rather be at home with my dog than pretending to laugh at an acquaintance’s jokes at some lame bar.  then i just coerce my actual friends to visit me and it’s the greatest thing ever. 

    anyway, i just don’t buy into the whole idea that you “should” be social and go out with people you don’t really have those deep connections with. what’s the point?

    • lola

      I guess maybe the point, at least in my opinion is, that’s how you’ll eventually meet new friends? If you never actually socialize, you’ll never know. And first appearances can be deceptive. It would suck to miss out on a fantastic friendship you could have had just because you didn’t think you’d initially get along with them.
      I do agree with you, but at the same time, I don’t think friendships all need to be these deep, soul-wrenching things. And not all friendships even start out that way.

      • shannon

        i see what you mean, but i think, in my experience at least, it’s evident pretty early on whether or not i’m ever going to have that real, worthwhile, connection with someone. of course i do meet new people all the time, and it’s not like i walk around with my head down, refusing to speak to anyone by my ~*BFFS*~, but as soon as it’s clear to me that we’ll never really connect any deeper than small-talk superficialities, i move along. i don’t feel the need to expend much energy on interactions that are little more than draining for both of us.

      • ariel

        One of the most important people in my life, with who I have a very deep connection was a person I never thought I would have a worthwhile connection with and was even someone I didn’t initially get along with. But, I just kept putting myself out there and the friendship happened.

        Actually, a lot of my close, deep friendships are with people I didn’t think would stay in my life or people I immediately just knew there was something there. I just kept putting myself out there and they happened. But I guess I rarely feel that socializing and getting to know new people is draining or shallow.

      • shannon

        But I guess I rarely feel that socializing and getting to know new people is draining ”

        you must be an extrovert. i’ve found that this has been one of the most defining distinctions between introverts and extroverts. the mere thought of “putting myself out there” and “socializing” makes me tired/nervous. but i think that’s okay. it’s just a different way of relating to people. i love people deeply and value every person in certain ways, but i don’t feel that i NEED many relationships to satisfy my social interaction quota. a few is more than enough for me, personally. maybe i’m missing out on certain experiences and people, but i’m comfortable with that for the time being. the few people in my life are amazing and never leave me feeling like i need more, ever. everyone’s different, though.

  • http://artfeedsmia.blogspot.com/ mia nguyen

    you always run into people that say, “we should grab coffee soon.” bunch of lies. this was a lovely piece.

  • Saeed Alefari

    friend who understand you is the best ever and one or two just can understand you deeply 

  • Guest

    This made me cry.  Beautiful

  • Sophia

    sending this to my best friend. so perfect. i always love your thoughts on friendship.

  • Zee Attari

    Amazingg and so true :)

  • Rosie

    I love that so many people have shared this. I think we all need a little reminder.

  • distance kills

    I miss my best friend… 

  • Spongiform

    So beautiful it hurt. I’m going to get in contact with my old best friend I haven’t talked to in years…can’t believe I let my ambitions get the best of me for so long that I forgot the most important things

  • Evilguk

    this is brilliant

  • beatrice

    Which is why I invest in online friendships, whether i’ve met them irl or not

  • :)

    Thank you :’)

  • Aesthete

    I have recently been positively surprised by an old friend. We were both in long-term relationships and so we kind of lost contact during a few years, except for seeing each other once or twice a year. We then broke up of our respective relationships almost at the same time, and found ourselves chilling together again all the time like in the old days. 
    It made me realize how much of a great friend she is and how important it is to have someone like her in my life. I wish she would be able to read english so i would share this with her.

    Thanks for the beautiful feelings :)

  • http://kumquatparadise.tumblr.com aaron nicholas

    good stuff

  • Samwise

    everytime i go home to visit, i wonder why i left in the first place, left so many people that love me.  it just plain sucks not having a commonality like school/sports/etc.  beautiful piece.

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