Television lied to us about adulthood.
Most of us grew up watching “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.,” “How I Met Your Mother,” or, more recently, “New Girl.” And these shows promised big things for our twenties and thirties. We were supposed to move to a new city, stumble into the closest bar and suddenly find ourselves wrapped up in a group of goofy comrades who would light up our loneliness with their unending charm and devotion.
The characters in those shows stuck together come hell or high water. Sure, sometimes one of them got married or gave birth. But it wasn’t a big deal. They’d raised the baby in their rent-controlled Brooklyn flat – right across the hall from their best friends – and conveniently leave it at home anytime the group wanted to go grab coffee together.
And so that’s what we figured adulthood would be a like – a series of hapless adventures, strung together through the wisdom and support of our friend group. We were scarcely prepared fro the reality of adulthood – one in which almost everything seems to take priority over our friendships. And we definitely were not prepared for the unfortunate periods of adulthood where our close friends all seemed to be moving on without us – finding bigger and better things while we got left behind in the dust.
It isn’t always that way, of course. Sometimes you’re the one doing the leaving – and you may not even notice yourself doing so. You accept a job overseas, move in with a significant other, or grow committed enough to your job that you just can’t justify nights out with your old group of friends anymore. You quietly and subtly remove yourself from the people who used to matter most to you but it isn’t the end of the world – after all, you have bigger fish to fry. You’re an adult now. You have real things going on.
But at some point or another, the tables are going to turn – because they always do. You cannot get through adulthood without feeling – at least once or twice – that everyone is moving on without you. It’s like skinning your knee or getting detention as a child. It happens to us all and it’s just one of those painful, inevitable parts of growing up.
And when it happens, it’s rough. One day you’re packing four inhabitants into a three person apartment, hosting wild parties, going on hilariously bad dates and reminiscing about it all over takeout dinners on the living room floor. And then in the blink of an eye, it all changes. Someone gets serious with a boyfriend or girlfriend and moves out. Somebody else gets promoted and can now afford a fancy one-bedroom uptown. Someone accepts a job teaching overseas and suddenly you’re left all alone, with the same life you’ve always been living but minus all the characters who once made it so worthwhile.
And when that happens, it’s so easy to feel spiteful toward our friends. It’s easy to blame them for leaving, for progressing, for getting engaged or promoted or pregnant – even if the ‘good’ part of us is happy for them throughout it all. It’s easy to spend all of our time reminiscing about the way things used to be, and spitefully rejecting the way things are. We don’t want new friends, because it won’t be the same. We don’t want new roommates, because nobody can replace our old ones. We don’t want to move forward, because the past looks so much better. The past was a place where there was camaraderie and togetherness and growth. The present is bleak in comparison.
And perhaps here’s what we need to remember at those times – that as depressing as the entire experience is, it is a hopelessly normal part of growing up. At some point or another, life tears even the best people apart and it’s not always malicious or intentional. It’s just the way things happen. There are going to be times in our lives where we want everything to last forever but they simply can’t – and it’s nobody’s fault or responsibility to fix. It’s just the way the chips fall. The best times are all fleeting, by their very definition. It’s their exceptionality that sets them apart.
So when we arrive at these points in our lives – where the people who’ve made up all our yesterdays branch off toward their own tomorrows – we have to learn to make peace with their choices. We have to learn to take a step back from resentment and our pride and our loneliness and remember that there are an infinite number of new characters that have yet to make their debut into our lives. That the best times to date are behind us but that doesn’t mean the future doesn’t hold even better opportunities for friendship and love. But if we remain so fixated on what we’ve lost, we’ll never see what’s still left to be found.
Because chances are, there’s someone else out there with your exact sense of humour and your same zest for life, feeling hopelessly sad that all their friends have moved on without them. Maybe they’re considering putting up an ad for a new roommate, or asking their pretty cool coworker out for a friend-date. Maybe that co-worker’s you. Maybe the next person you fall in best-friend love with is a whole lot closer than you’d think.
Or maybe not. Maybe you’re still sitting at home sulking over the departure of your close circle and refusing to consider what comes next. Maybe you need to stay there for a while, because you’re the kind of person who takes time to mourn what you’ve lost. But if that’s the case, at least keep this in mind: In all of our favorite sitcoms, all our favorite characters had one thing in common – for the most part, they met by random chance. And the more of those chances you take, the better your odds are of finding that next amazing cast.
Because they’re out there somewhere – hoping that the next person who stumbles into their favorite bar or coffee shop is someone exactly like you.