True confession time.
I’ve been seriously wondering if friends are still necessary. OK, I know that sounds awful and maybe even a little cruel. But the older I get the more I want to be alone.
Don’t get me wrong—I do have friends. Some of my closest friends are the girls I have known since preschool. However, the older we get, the easier it is to stop seeing each other or even check in with each other. I promise we have legitimate excuses for why we aren’t better at keeping in touch. So if I don’t really hang out with the girls I’ve been friends with my entire life, then why would I want to add more friends? Isn’t it easier to just be alone?
Is friendship at 41 with kids impossible?
I really, really want to say yes to all of those questions but my youngest daughter, Faith, decided to prove me wrong. Let me explain. The other day, I was at the swimming pool with my spunky five-year-old. OK, maybe I wasn’t swimming so much as wading while she happily splashed around me. She is a new swimmer without any help from floatation devices, and the pool has brand new possibilities for her. She loves the pool so much that every day when I come home from work, she has her suit on and is ready to go.
Anyway, Faith was swimming and then she spotted another little girl her age who I had never seen before. She immediately left my side to swim to the girl. And then she asked a very simple question:
“Do you want to be my friend?”
The little girl said yes, they exchanged names, and then took off, leaving me behind. For four hours, they played in the pool, ate crappy food, built forts together, and even planned their birthdays together. Faith had found a new best friend. I was also told that we were not to leave the pool to go home until her friend was leaving. Heaven forbid she missed out on the fun.
It made me realize that as I have gotten older, the simplicity of making a new friend gets harder and harder. By my age (41), it seems virtually impossible. There are a lot of reasons why this happens. None are surprising. Life just gets super busy. I just don’t have the capacity to add a new friend into my life. What if I do the work to get a new friend and they are completely draining? You all know what I’m talking about—the friend that makes it all about them and how great they are. Nope. I don’t need that in my life.
There are so many reasons why I can easily dismiss someone who could be a new friend, but if I’m completely honest, the main reason is that I just want to be alone.
But deep down, I know it’s a problem, and I had to learn this from my five-year-old. She reminded me that God ingrained a need for community in all of us. When we’re young, it’s pretty instinctual. Then the older we are, the more we turn this instinct down and eventually sometimes even completely off.
So the big question is, do I really need to turn this instinct back on, especially when I really don’t want to?
When we are alone, we have no one encouraging us, we have no one to share burdens with, and we have no one to have fun with, life kinda sucks. Faith showed me that at the pool. Her fun went up ten-fold when she met her new friend.
So I decided to follow my daughter’s lead, and I took a step. Instead of sitting on a pool chair, watching my daughter play with her new friend, I moved over to the mom of Faith’s new friend and started a conversation with her. I’m not sure if Jenny (the mom) and I will become friends, but I do know that this has reminded me I can’t continue to put my friendships on the backburner. So I have taken a couple of steps to remedy my own forced isolation.
Step #1: One of my long-time friends planned a night out and I actually went! It was so much fun. We laughed so much that my stomach hurt.
Step #2: I renewed a friendship that I thought was lost. I’m not sure why we lost touch, but I made a bold choice and sent a text message. The text turned into meeting for coffee, which now has turned into meeting every other Thursday morning. It’s a friendship I desperately need, and I didn’t even know it until I put myself out there.
It’s scary stepping out, especially when you don’t think you need to, but God is continually showing me why I need friends. There might always be a part of me that will continue to want to blow off friends and give into isolation. There will always probably be times when I cave and choose loneliness. But, and this is a big but, God reminded me in one week how old friends can bring me joy, how renewed friendships can be revitalizing, and even how new friendships can bring hope. I have a choice to make. Even when it’s not easy, I choose friends.