Welcome to Your Thirties
There’s something that happens when you turn 30. Friendships change and never seem to be the same again. I know those of you over 30 know what I’m talking about. Gone are the days of staying out ’til 2, arms wrapped around each other, singing your hearts out through the streets. It just becomes a thing of the past. Friendship shifts and changes through each stage of our lives, but moving into friendship in your thirties is like moving into the next phase of adult life. And if you’re anything like me, even though you’ve been paying taxes since you were 16, you just don’t really feel like an adult yet.
I’ve been married and divorced, owned two homes, attended college and grad school, and dealt with countless other adult life experiences, but somehow I still feel like a little kid sometimes, just figuring it all out. One thing I’ve been trying to figure out lately is friendships. Some of my favorite television shows center around a fantastic group of friends that I completely aspire to. Friends, Sex and the City, How I Met Your Mother… hell, even The Walking Dead features a group of friends that are like a family to each other. Sometimes it makes me wish I had friends living in the apartment across the hall that were routinely popping by to nibble on the contents of my fridge and share hilarious jokes with (Oh Joey…).
But…reality check. On Friends they were all in their twenties. Once they all started turning 30, Monica and Chandler got married and wanted to move to the country, Rachel became a single mother, Ross had been divorced twice and was the father of two children, Phoebe got married, and Joey’s career became more intense and time consuming. Ultimately they parted ways. I’m sure they kept in touch, but it would never be the same as when they were in their twenties. And that’s fictional.
We’re at Different Stages in Our Lives
First, a little background on me. Most of my friendships relate back to schools I have attended. My group of amazing high school friends was hard to leave behind when I moved to Seattle for undergrad. I joined a sorority and made some amazing lifelong friendships that are still a big part of my life today. But right after undergrad I married my college sweetheart, and when we were playing house, my college girlfriends were living in shared apartments, going out dancing, and finding their way in their careers, all while sharing everything when they lived together. I never did that. I was living with my new husband, and felt very separated from all the fun they were having. We were just at different stages of our lives, both wonderful, just different.
Fast forward 8 years, and I was on a roller coaster toward divorce. I was at a crossroads and had to decide where I really wanted my life to go. I was making the toughest decisions of my life. During this time, most of my college friends had found the one and were busily planning weddings, some even planning kids, buying homes, all the stuff you’re supposed to do when you build a life with your sweetheart. I was in the process of building a life on my own, furnishing my studio apartment on Seattle’s busy Capitol Hill, a neighborhood typically known for young and trendy party types. I hadn’t dated for the entirety of my twenties and at 30, I was ready to get out there and explore all that life had to offer. Again, we were simply at different points in our lives. Both wonderful, just different.
It’s tough making new friends in your thirties. The convenience of living together, of being free to go out on weeknights or quickly jet off on spur-of-the-moment trips are now a thing of the past. Calling last minute to invite someone to happy hour just doesn’t work anymore. Once everyone begins settling down with careers, spouses and significant others, homes, and even kids, it’s a total game changer. Even the most casual hang-outs must be planned well in advance. And they don’t happen as often, and we need to be prepared for that shift. We must open our minds up to hanging out with kids in tow to support our friends with offspring who still want to kick back and have a little fun.
Keep in Touch
Most importantly, we have to actively keep in touch with the important people in our lives. We have to make time for them. If we want the phone to ring, we have to pick it up and dial first. Sometimes this can leave even the most confident person feeling desperate and needy like a middle schooler trying to get in with the in-crowd. The thing I’ve come to understand is that in our thirties, everyone is just busy. Really busy. And you’d be surprised how many people just want to stay in and have some quiet time at home when all the craziness of the day subsides and a glass of wine is all it takes to make it all better.
During my marathon of spring cleaning this week, I sorted through six big tubs of photos and mementos from various points in my life. I like to think of myself as fairly organized, but turns out I’m a bit of a packrat when it comes to hoarding old cards and letters. I found so many sweet notes from friends over the years. They were so carefully written, with beautiful pens, telling me how we’d always be best friends and how lucky we were to have each other in our lives. It melted my heart. Those friendships that I made way back when are still everything I want them to be, even if we don’t see each other as much as I’d like. It’s important to be truly grateful for the wonderful people in our lives and make sure they know that we’re thinking about them. Sending a card or making an out of the blue phone call to catch up goes a long way.
Making New Friends in Your Thirties
Think Outside the Group Making new friends in your thirties can be tough. Sometimes it feels like everyone already has their “friend group” and they are no longer admitting new members. This hails back to an old, collegiate and youthful way of thinking about friendships. First, you need to get your mind away from thinking about things like that. I like to think of myself as someone who can easily go between many “groups” of friends. I also really value my one-on-one time with friends. We’re all adults now, and you don’t need to wait for someone from the group to invite you somewhere. Create your own gathering and invite the people in your life, including a few people who are new friends to you. And don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t work out. Remind yourself that people are busy and it’s often hard to carve out time to hang out with friends. Try to be understanding, not resentful when a friend is unable to get together.
Text, Text, Text Seriously. When I got back into the dating world at 30, I was naively stunned at how important texting has become in relationships. My boyfriend and I text each other everyday without fail. That way we always feel connected even if we can’t see each other that day. You can apply this same idea to friendships, although not always with the same frequency. Two of my best girlfriends from college and I started a group text awhile back and when something comes up, good, bad, exciting, confusing, we text each other. Just being on the line with them this way makes me feel so great, even though we don’t get together as often as we’d like. It’s nice to know we’re all thinking about each other, care about each other’s opinions, and want to be a part of each other’s daily lives.
Sometimes It’s the Small Stuff Remember to wish friends a happy birthday on Facebook. Sometimes I don’t make that happen and it sounds super nerdy when I type that, but think of how great it feels when bunches of friends write on your wall on your birthday. Send a card. I used to be really good at sending cards and letters, especially to long distance friends and relatives. I want to get back in the habit of sending at least one card a month. It happens so infrequently that it’s really meaningful. Offer to buy a new friend’s cup of coffee. This small gesture shows your generosity and makes you feel like part of the team with a new friend. There are so many little ways to make friendship more fun, so get creative.
Try New Things If you’re new to the area or just looking to add to your friend circle, take up something new or pursue something you haven’t made time for in awhile. Take a sewing class or yoga class, join a biking or running group, or maybe a sports team. You can choose just about any activity as long as you pursue something you’re really interested in. You’ll be making time for something you love and making new friends in the process will be like a little bonus. Plus, you will already have something in common, a shared experience, much like the collegiate friendships that formed so easily when we were in our twenties. It’s kind of a win-win.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on friendships in your twenties and how they change moving into your thirties. What are some ways you’re making this new phase work for you?