LEARNING TO BE A BETTER FRIEND IN MY TWENTIES

“Friendship isn’t easy. And it certainly doesn’t get easier as you enter adulthood. It’s complicated. It’s a messy love affair. But it’s real. And life-changing. And awesome all at the same time.”

Friendship is a funny little thing. You see another human. You speak to said human. You make small talk. The small talk turns to genuine conversation. You discuss your interests. Hobbies. Jobs. You laugh. You decide you quite like them. You swap numbers. You meet up. And meet up again. And again. And voila! A beautiful new friendship is formed just. like. that

If only.

Adult life isn’t (quite) that easy.

Perhaps that’s how forming new friendships go in some rare instances. You find a real bond with someone and something just ‘clicks’. But for most (myself included), friendships form from the milestones in your life. Starting school. Moving away to uni. Getting a job. Having a child (or so I assume). It’s slightly easier this way.

Like most of us, I’ve been to events solo; a wreath making class, blogger events and even training sessions for work, to name a few. I’ve got on with other people there. The chat was comfortable. I thought they were lovely. We had similar interests. But the real hurdle in all of it? Whether either one of you are ballsy enough to pluck up the courage and ask for their details. And be even ballsier to then contact them about meeting up afterwards. Of course, one of the main factors to aid this decision? Whether you live remotely close to each other.

The sad reality is this. As much as you may like someone, or get on, if you live in different ends of the country, the likelihood that you’ll meet up again after only meeting them once in the first place? Slim to none. And that’s no one’s fault.

Yes, milestone friendships are so much easier than one-off meet ups.

Friendship isn’t easy. And it certainly doesn’t get easier as you enter adulthood. It’s complicated. It’s a messy love affair. But it’s real. And life-changing. And awesome all at the same time. Yes. Friendship is a huge subject area to tackle – in fact, you could be here all week – or you could write a book about it, like Lily Pebbles did. But, I do want to speak about them. The milestone friendships. I want to talk about how I’m learning to be a better friend in my twenties. Because sometimes, we get that life-changing moment when we realise – we completely and utterly suck at it. 

In my recent post about must-subscribe-to-now podcasts, I mentioned “The Fringe Of It”, run by Liv Purvis (my March favourite style inspo) and Charlotte Jacklin – the girl who makes you feel like you could be best friends with her, like now (despite never meeting). These girls, and their podcast, have continuously hit the nail on the head with the topics they cover. And their very first? It was all about that little thing called f r i e n d s h i p. This not only seemed to fit in perfectly as it went live on Galentine’s day (the day to share the love with your pals), but the whole topic also seems pretty fitting at the moment.

Why?

Because ‘friendship’ seems to keep cropping up lately. Their discussion (I say discussion because I really felt like I could easily be sitting down having a cup of tea with them joining in the conversation) really resonated with me. This has only resonated even more since I’ve been reading “The F Word” by Lily Pebbles (all about female friendships – a must-read, FYI) and after catching Chloe Plumstead’s post all about making more effort for that vital “me-time”. A date with yourself. A day dedicated to you, and only you.

It got me thinking. Long and hard. I had some stern words with myself, and an all-round friendship/ “me-time” reality check. Not in terms of the friends I surround myself with, but in terms of the type of friend I am to them. 

Am I a good friend? Do I suck a little bit? Have I taken the “me-time” mentality a bit too far?

You see, the formed friendships we do have – no matter how big or small the group – are pretty wonderful. I have great friends. Brilliant, in fact. I’m extremely lucky. Sure, friends have come and gone over the years. A lot of friends now I come to think of it. But I’m now nearing my mid-twenties with friends I can’t imagine not having in my life. And yet I realised, that despite this, I don’t think I’ve ever actually spoken about them. I’ve talked about Harry – a lot, my family – a little, and most aspects of my life on this blog. But my friends? You wouldn’t be crazy for thinking I don’t have any. 

I do – you’ll be relieved to know.

But, let’s take it back to the beginning. Let’s talk about the ‘milestone’ friendships.

The School Years

As a young child, I was painstakingly shy. I’m talking quieter than a mouse shy. I was the child who knew the answers to questions but never piped up. The child who would never say “hello” to the Head Teacher. Although I do remember him being extremely annoying constantly asking me to… And, of course, that also meant I was the child who had to be taken to the opticians, because I was too shy to say the letters I could see in the eye test at school. I could see. But I’m surprised I didn’t end up with a pair of glasses by the end of it anyway.

As I was so shy, friendships weren’t necessarily easy. In fact, I’m surprised I even had friends. Alas, I got through it and I made my all-time best friend; Rosie. Other “best friends” came and went over our school years, but Rosie and I have gone through it all. To categorise our friendship, as Lily would say, Rosie is ‘the one you’ve known forever’ – the childhood friend.

We would meet up after school to play with our baby Annabell’s, talk on the phone to catch up on our weekend and play out on the trampoline until it got dark outside. It was easy. We would see each other all day at school and we lived one village away from each other at home.

Like most things, the routine eventually had to change. School ended, I went off to uni and Rosie stayed at home to do an apprenticeship. We no longer saw each other on the daily. Our meet-ups only happened during the holidays and our chats became more infrequent. The friendship shifted. We had to ‘go the distance’.

Despite this, we’re still to this day, best friends. The distance element hasn’t faded. I now live in Birmingham and Rosie lives in Cheltenham (although we’re lucky it’s only about an hour away). We still talk, but I don’t get to talk or see her half as much as I’d want to. Life is busy – that old thing again. Our diaries fill up and it’s always now a “let’s put a date in the diary before it gets too long” kind of conversation. It’s harder. But luckily, we’ve never been the type of friends who have to talk everyday to survive. In fact, we could go weeks without talking and we’d still be the same as we always were. It wouldn’t be awkward and we’d always have a laugh. We’re the type of friends where we can be realists with each other. Nothing is out of bounds (at least it shouldn’t be after almost 20 years of friendship) and I would never be afraid to tell Rosie something, even if I knew she wouldn’t necessarily want to hear it. When she wasn’t trying hard at school, I’d tell her. If I was out of order, she’d call me up on it. It’s not always nice to hear, but it’s important. The thing is, you need friends who won’t shy away from telling you the truth sometimes. This friendship is one of those.

You see, the ‘childhood friends’ are rare to find. But it’s a very special kind of friendship. So it’s only right that it’s one of my all-time favourites.

The Uni Days

I look back on my uni days as some of my fondest memories. In fact, I quite often find myself blurting out “I really miss being at uni” during my working day – ahem. Despite my love for it, uni is a confusing time. You move away from your family home and your friends, into a new city with new surroundings, new people and almost no idea what is going on. It’s a lifestyle change. And a massive one at that. But, the good news is that everyone’s in the same boat. You have no option but to be thrown out of your comfort zone and to get chatting to everyone and anyone. You want to make friends, and fast. I waved goodbye to the shy girl and put my confident hat on – I “faked it until I made it” as Charlotte Jacklin would say. And it worked.

Prior to Freshers starting, I had spoken to a few people on Facebook who were on my course, and one girl in particular who was on my course and was living in the same block as me. The very first night of Freshers, my flat went over to the flat opposite to join in with some, quite frankly, terrifying Freshers games. I spotted a girl I thought I recognised popping out of her room and that was that. I went out of the kitchen, down the hall and went and knocked on her door. I was a fresher on a mission. I introduced myself, we hugged (the alcohol consumption definitely helped with that one) and we got chatting. The next day, we met by the elevators outside our flats and went off to our first ‘lecture’.

We never looked back.

My best friend at uni, and still my best friend now. We still meet up, she’s now moved back to Birmingham (hooray!) and I still love her just as much. Do I miss uni because I don’t get to just chill out with her everyday? Yes. Without a doubt. You see, the trouble now is that I’m at work everyday and she’s now braving a masters. Our timings are off balance. She works at the weekend when I’m mostly free. She’s at uni when I’m at work. It’s not as easy anymore, despite thinking it would be. 

You see, we’re both still trying to get our feet off the ground, as it were. Juggling everything at once is simply not possible. But our friendship is like no other. She’s one of a kind, and I adore her.

The Sister Sister Chat

An original name for a Whatsapp group for sisters, I know.

Of course, I can’t do a post about friendships without mentioning them – I have two, by the way. Both older. Sisters are the friends you had before you were even born. At least that’s true in my case anyway.

I’m lucky that my family are all very close – but we’ve definitely got even closer since growing up. There’s approximately two years between each of us, and I definitely think that’s had a big part to play. Of course, we’ve had our arguments and fights. As all siblings do. I still remember the unnecessary tears and tantrums we had. It wasn’t all playing ‘Blind Date’ with our beanie babies and making potions with dandelions (yes really).

But we’ve always had each other’s backs. We’ve looked out for each other and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying my sisters are fiercely protective over me (even when it’s not necessary). We share clothes, we go out together and we love nothing more than a good shopping spree. Like with Rosie, seeing each other now isn’t so easy. We don’t live together for one, but we also don’t live within a 10 minute drive of each other. Like with everything, growing up has made it more difficult.

Luckily, there’s nothing quite like a sisters friendship. And that’s something to be grateful for.

The Work Pals

I first made my work friends as part of my placement year. For my third year at uni, I managed to get some experience within the Marketing sphere and it just so happens I’ve ended up back at the same place now since finishing my degree. I have a lot to thank for my placement year, but perhaps we’ll leave that for another time.

I’m very lucky to work where I do, and who with. We’re a great team of girls (and one guy!) and we get on so well. No topic is out of bounds, we play ridiculous “what would you do for money” games, and I genuinely wouldn’t be able to function, or survive, my working day or working week without them. If we’re not all in one day, the office is suddenly “so quiet” and we all feel the loss of one of our members when they leave us to sun themselves on a beach for a week. Ahh, the jealousy is very real in an office environment.

You see, work friends are important. Very, important. In fact, they’re one of a kind. They’re different to all of your other friendship groups due to meeting at a different time in your life. They’re chilled out, they’re ridiculously fun and they’re a bit of fresh air. This in itself should be celebrated. But, despite being lucky enough to spend every day together, seeing each other outside of working hours can lack somewhat. I’m going to go back to my point of them being ridiculously fun here, and it will make sense as to why not seeing each other outside of work so often is such a horrifying prospect.

Despite all of these friendship groups being completely different, meeting at different points in my life and being separate from one another, there’s one common theme with them all. It’s bloody difficult to fit in seeing each other. Something “The Fringe Of It” podcast also admits to. As your friendship groups expand as your life enters new phases, keeping in contact with each friend becomes that little bit more stretched. We live in a time-fast world and we always seem to be busy. It’s that age old problem of life being a little too busy, too often and forgetting to prioritise fitting in your friends somewhere along the line.

You’re trying to “figure your life out”. Get yourself set up. Start your career. Do everything all at once, because that’s what we think we should be doing. I constantly think about messaging my friends when I know I’ve gone for long periods not doing so, but get caught up in the everyday jobs, or life itself. I think about it – sure. But something else always crops up.

And, when I don’t have plans, I really want that “me-time”. I need that night in rather than a night out. I want a chilled evening on the sofa. So? I give it to myself. You see, I’m good at giving myself that necessary “me-time” that Chloe says she currently lacks. Not in my case. I enjoy my own company. I enjoy some time alone to do what I want to do. I enjoy being a little selfish every now and then. And because of that? Instead of filling my free time with seeing different friends, I fill it with my own company. This is of course where I’m going wrong.

Our twenties are hard. Being an adult is hard. Trying to juggle everything at once, is hard. And maintaining friends in your twenties like you did when you were younger? You guessed it – it’s hard. The balance is darn near impossible to achieve, but it’s important to work on it. Sure. You’re probably never going to be able to dedicate to seeing friends every month. But, despite being busy, despite having plans and despite being tired – a simple text to update your friends on what you’re up to, in between the meet-ups, is needed. It doesn’t need to be a long night of texting non-stop. The odd message here and there will do. It keeps you in the loop. It keeps you connected. And it keeps your friendship solid.

So, from now on, I’m going to try and be a better friend in my twenties. Will you join me?

Let me know your thoughts over on my Twitter or Instagram

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