When it comes to friendships, I've always favored quality over quantity.
Growing up as a geeky, introverted kid, that makes total sense. When I was younger, I was far more interested in my studies, reading, or playing video games than I was in being a social butterfly. In many ways, I still am.
Being a geek when you're little is, to say the least, inconvenient. But as I got older and went to college, I began to wear my social selectivity as a badge of honor. I had little desire to allow anyone into my life who didn't positively contribute to it. Not that I would forcibly reject people — I'd just be content with allowing certain relationships to fade away. To let them be what they were, nothing more, and not try to force anything out of politeness or desperation.
As our dad likes to point out, my sister and I are complete opposites, especially when it comes to our social lives. Through her, I've noticed how being selective with friendships has its advantages and disadvantages. I don't think my sister has ever been without plans, somewhere to be, or someone to hang out with. Or so it seems to me, anyway. That's really awesome, and there are plenty of times when I wish my phone was going off all the time, if only to have someone to talk to.
On the other hand, the more friends you have, the more likely you are to encounter drama on a somewhat regular basis.
If a relationship causes me more drama than its worth, I let it go. If I want to get through life as contently as possible, eliminating unnecessary people is one of my most valuable strategies.
What I'm beginning to realize now, though, is that as I get older, I find myself having to eliminate unnecessary people less and less. That is, I'm meeting new people far more infrequently.
A few days ago, Alex Williams wrote an article for the New York Times about the challenge of making friends as an adult:
As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.
I met most of my best friends in college. We saw each other, laughed, cried, and lived life together every day. It was amazing, in retrospect. Now I only talk to most of them every few weeks, if I'm lucky, and since we've all moved back to our respective areas of the country, I see them far less often than I'd like.
But they're still my best friends.
I made some best friends in grad school, too, and I'm grateful that I still talk to them as often as I do.
But none of them are here right now. None of them are down the hall or upstairs. Most aren't in the same town, let alone the same state.
Since moving out of my parents' house, I've felt their absence more than ever. There are days when I wake up, read, write, work out, cook, and eat without ever talking to another person. Sometimes it's not until I go to work or yoga or run errands that I hear my own voice. And though I love solitude as much as the next writer/geek/introvert, we do miss our friends.
I tell you this not out of a desire for pity, of course. Being out on my own is great, and I wouldn't trade my best friends for all the acquaintances in the world. It's merely been the observation at the forefront of my mind lately.
As I get older, I don't see myself suddenly gaining five new friends a week as one might do in college. In fact, when I try to imagine where my next good friend is going to come from, I can't come up with an obvious answer. There are no more classes. There are no more parties in the quad. Right now — and with the kind of job I want — there aren't even any coworkers.
It is, admittedly, a bit scary.
People have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now. “You tend to focus on what is most emotionally important to you,” [Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California] said, “so you’re not interested in going to that cocktail party, you’re interested in spending time with your kids.”
I don't know if I'm OK with pulling back on exploration, of the self or otherwise. But I do know — so far — who I want alongside me at 30 and beyond.
There are billions of people out there, and not all of them are worth knowing.
So when I find someone who is, I'm going to make sure they know it.