At 26, I seem to rejoice in making new friends with the same kind of excitement akin to winning £50 on a scratch card. And whilst I sound like Billy No Mates, there’s no denying that making friends becomes significantly harder as we get older. In the first decade and a half of our lives, we are surrounded by friends; we see them every day at school, and we probably spend most of our evenings and weekends with them too thanks to the organisation and sacrifice of our parents. For some, making friends becomes a natural habit and even for those of us who don’t find it all that natural, at least from a young age, we are continually put into situations where we’re encouraged to forge friendships. But as we continue through life, our friends, the ones who we once saw every single day become less attune to the intricacies and updates in our lives. We move to different places, and we head abroad in pursuit of adventure, our careers, and something bigger and better, often leaving that familiarity behind often through no fault of our own.
Finding that same level of familiarity in adulthood can be difficult.
For one, there are fewer situations where we’re forced to make friends. They are no longer confined to the people in our school year, and other than work, life rarely presents a scenario where we can meet like-minded people. Just like dating, we have to put ourselves in those situations, and that in itself can be a very daunting prospect. Friendships in adulthood are less about circumstance, and more about those moments of connection, and as C.S. Lewis wrote, friendship is “born at the moment when one man says to another, ‘what! You too?”. Whilst trying to recreate those feelings of familiarity we have with our closest friends may seem near on impossible, there’s something equally comforting in a new acquaintance who also understands your obsession with pickled onion Monster Munch, or whatever your quirk may be.
These days, my life seems to be dictated entirely by distance, and navigating public transport to see friends in different corners of the country – or globe – is a simple reality. And most of the time, their absence isn’t felt as much as it should be because communication is so easy these days – we can FaceTime, we can keep up-to-date with each other’s lives on Instagram, and we tag each other in relatable memes on Facebook. It’s like they never left us, and they’re always there at the end of WhatsApp messages. Just as bills are a part of adulthood, so are long-distance friendships. But when you really need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to help you drown your sorrows, that absence has never felt stronger.
Sure, we can always try to make new friends but by the time our twenties come to a close, no one is looking for a best friend anymore.
The slot has been filled, and we’re no longer hiring. But that craving for our oldest and deepest friendships to exist within a closer distance remains. Because often, these long-distance friendships mean sharing moments that don’t have to be grandiose and spectacular. We don’t have to put our best faces on, just our presence is enough. We don’t have be under any false pretences that we are always happy, sociable, and the best versions of ourselves. They allow for the mundane to be so beautifully perfect. Sometimes it’s as wonderful as standing around a kitchen in a country house together making pizzas for dinner. Or sharing stories on the sofa whilst drinking tea and watching the BAFTAs. Or swapping secrets with a friend that the others aren’t privy to. These long-distance forever friendships are the celebration of the mundane and mediocre moments that are so often left understated in friendships, but equally worthy of an applause.
There’s no denying that these sorts of friendships require work, and at times, they can be difficult to maintain wholeheartedly, but these are the ones I live for, valued so much more than any short-lived romances and friendships that have entered and left my life.
No matter the distance and time apart, and no matter where we are in the world, I feel immediately at home. We remember how the other one takes their tea, or if in fact, they prefer coffee. They don’t judge me for getting into my pyjamas at the earliest possible opportunity, or that I’m already asleep by 10.30pm these days. I can eat an entire tub of Pringles in front of them, and it wouldn’t matter, it would still feel like it was always supposed to be this way.