Growing Up Without Growing Apart

by Jennifer Richards

As we grow up our surroundings change, the people around us are shaped by their individual experiences and we undergo our own form of personal development. The inevitable process of growing up therefore has various implications for our past and future friendships.

Growing up means you may not see your friends as much as you used to; factors like university, relationships and jobs seem to make it harder to find the time to nurture old friendships. It’s no longer the same friendship you once had, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s still possible to enter the adult world without losing your childhood friends. Growing apart doesn’t have to be an accepted part of growing up.

At school you get to see your friends everyday. Somehow this made the tests, essays and stress worth it. But once you leave school, suddenly you’re paths do not cross as much, it becomes difficult to stay in touch as you’re all doing different things, moving in different directions. It’s hard not to be nostalgic but if you dwell on what your friendship was, you’ll miss out on all the wonderful moments you’re still yet to share.

Friendship, just like any other relationship, takes work.

With many of my own friends having left for university, I discovered the difficulties of long distance friendship. Sometimes all you want is a hug from your friend when you have a bad day, or to laugh over stupid things whilst eating ice cream. Sadly life isn’t an American teen movie. Perhaps this is a good thing. Not seeing your friends constantly means the time you do get to spend with them becomes even more meaningful. You have to catch each other up on what’s new in your lives, and before you now it, it’s like you’ve spent no time apart.

But for those times when you really miss them, sometimes a quick visit is all that’s needed. I think the best investment I made in my friendships was my railcard. I often worry I can’t fit in visiting my friends with work and other commitments before I realise how stupid I’m being. These friendships won’t miraculously last on their own; I need to make time to see them and ensure I’m putting in the same amount of effort that I hope to receive back. Sometimes all it takes is sending a little postcard to let them know you’re thinking of them and I always keep an eye out for long distance friendship gifts that I know will make them smile. Let them know you appreciate them! Plus, it’s always a bonus when you get to explore a new city with your friend whilst visiting them.

Planning trips in advance is great as it means you have a day you definitely know you’ll see your friend, yet it’s not always possible.

This is the biggest strength of social media. Before leaving school, Facebook was just for posting photos and reading the odd status. But now group messages are some of the best ways to keep in contact. Social media is also a nice way to see what’s going on in your friends lives. From photos they post on Instagram to their Snapchat stories, you get to see a snippet of what they’re doing. It’s nice still feeling a part of their lives and great for the more nosey side of you…

Texting and ringing is also important when you have a moment to check in. For my friend who was travelling, it was a good idea to set a day every two weeks where we could Skype. This meant we always made time for each other. But sometimes it’s just as simple as letting them know you’re thinking of them. I got a postcard from my friend the other day, and it had me smiling the whole week.

Distance isn’t the only difficulty friendships face as you get older.

More serious relationships follow the high school crushes, as partners seem to take up the time you used to spend with your friends. I definitely struggled with this at first, missing my friends’ attention. Yet it soon became clear how selfish I was being. I wasn’t showing interest in my friends’ new happiness and the new people in their lives out of jealously. From being so scared of seeing my friends grow up, I realised I was growing away from them. Just because serious relationships were now in the picture, it didn’t mean my relationship with them was any less important.

A strong friendship means it has got to adapt to whatever life throws at you. It’s unrealistic to say your friendships will be just like how they were at school. It’s important to remember that you are growing up, and this means you, along with your friends, are having amazing new life experiences. Which you can then discuss and laugh about at your next catch up session. Instead of talking about school tests and crushes, you’ll be giving advice about jobs, hobbies and more serious relationship issues. Growing up doesn’t mean you have to grow apart from your friends. Actually, you appreciate your friendships more as they’re something you now have to work to keep. It’s easy to see which friendships are important as you’ll make the effort to stay in each other’s lives. So Facebook, ring, Skype or go and visit them. As cheesy as it sounds, just let them know you love them. As the Beetles’ so famously said: ‘all you need is love’.

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