On Friends After College

I attended a bridal shower for my oldest friend over the weekend. It was the second of her three showers. Seeing the gifts piled up on the gift table and looking at all of the people that had shown up and even dropped gifts off made me feel incredibly inadequate. Even moreso when I realized this was only the SECOND shower and that she had two others that I wouldnt be at. I came to the startling realization that not only did I not know enough people to warrant three bridal showers, but I also didn’t even know one person who would throw me ONE bridal shower.

Friends have always been tricky for me. In elementary school, I would befriend my classmates in my small school and I had a tightly knit group of 3 friends. But as we all grew older, I noticed we started to drift apart. We were all involved in different activities and we had a harder and harder time finding time together outside of school. And then elementary school ended.

Three of us went to the same mixed  middle/high school. But after seventh grade, I was only close with one of the girls. It happened to be her shower I attended. But as the high school years wore on, I found myself becoming more and more of a loner. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t seem to make lasting friendships. Sure, I would be very friendly with my classmates, but when Summer Break came around, it all disappeared and I had to start from square one in the Fall.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t make it work. The one person I seemed to be close with on a regular basis was my friend from elementary school. But even she was involved in dozens of activities throughout the year and she made her own friends separate from me. For whatever reason, people tended to avoid me. So most of the friendships I had spent months working on disappeared over long breaks.

This only got worse in college. I didn’t know anyone where I went and I found it extremely difficult to make new friends. I wasn’t even friendly with my roommates, it was that bad. I often wondered why. Why can’t I make friends? Is it because I’m intimidating? Do I scare people off? Do I say the wrong thing? Or am I self sabbotaging? Even now, out of college, I have no co-workers. And I’m sure that if I did, we probably wouldn’t be that friendly.

This brings me to my point: how do we make friends and where does this happen? In our youth, this typically happens with classmates or other children in our neighborhood. In high school, this expands to school teams and part time jobs. As adults, we make friends with co-workers or neighbors. Most of our relationships come from built-in pools of people like classmates and co-workers. So what are you supposed to do when you have no classmates or co-workers?

You could join sites like Meet Up and join groups of people with similar interests. You could take a new class or try a new activity. But none of it really matters because if you don’t cultivate the relationship, it won’t grow.

I’ve known my friend since infancy and I’m not a bridesmaid in her wedding. Its okay, really. I don’t have money for a dress and I’m still invited to the wedding so I’m not bothered. But it does kind of bother me that we have been friends for so long yet she wouldn’t even bother asking me if I wanted to participate. Granted we had drifted apart a little over the years since high school. But still, don’t the 22-odd years that we have known each other mean anything?

Now, I know its her wedding and she can plan it how she wants to and I am fine with that. I would never dream of trying to tell her how to do it. But the reality that she has moved on so easily in her life is kind of saddening for me. I don’t want to get married right now, but seeing her go through this experience and surrounding herself with so many people that AREN’T me got me thinking: what friends REALLY stick with us through life?

My mother isn’t particularly close with any of her college friends or bridesmaids from her wedding. Neither is my father. But then, they never really made the effort. So perhaps, I can attribute my lack of “active” friendships to their poor examples; I never learned how to nurture a friendship because I never really saw it done.

Now, I am a firm believer that I would rather have four or five super close friends than 100 sort-or friends. But maybe I could be a little bit better with nurturing my own friendships.

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