Two women walking outside together

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” — Carl Gustav Jung

At the age of 9, I transferred schools. I wore my long hair in pigtails, not out of choice but my mom’s desire to tame my stringy hair. I had enough energy to power a lighthouse and was a voracious reader.

It was a privileged choice to switch from a larger public school to a private school. It was a decision that had both toxic and uplifting results. I chose to change schools because of friendship. My public school experience was pleasant, but I felt as if I was just one tiny fish in a vast riverscape. My private school classes would be smaller and my best friend since the age of 2 attended the school. 

By 9 years old, I was already my constructing life choices to acquire better friendships.

In middle school, one of the popular girls decided she’d like to be my best friend. I was shocked and eager. She was tall and a year older than me. I somehow evolved into a “cool girl” overnight just by being her friend.

We stayed up late, ate Oreos on her bed and spied on her 16-year-old brother and his friends playing ping-pong in her basement. This honey-haired friend ditched me for the next interesting girl the following year, and I learned how short-lived friendships can be. It hurt to be discarded. It made me aware how my sixth grade friends might have felt when I scrapped them for this “cool” girl. 

I learned how short-lived friendships can be. It hurt to be discarded.

In high school, my dad looked at me in shock when I said I was an introvert because my life revolved around sleepovers, coffee with friends, long bus rides for high school sports and boys. Friends were the electrical currency of life. I planned with whom and what I was doing each day in response to the late night phone calls and hand-written notes passed in class. Yes, we actually wrote notes on paper and tossed them to each other when teachers turned their backs.

In college, I went back to the fish in the riverscape phenomena and struggled to find a group where I could belong. However, eventually I created a group of an odd mix of athletes and vocalists where I could connect. I worked out with the volleyball girls even though I no longer played. I sang with the vocalists even after quitting the ensemble I performed in my sophomore year. I cobbled together a college family of sorts. We laughed and lived our “scrape-it-together” existence.

Friends were the electrical currency of life.

Fast forward to being a 20-something, married adult. I didn’t really find belonging until I moved and had a baby. I did have work friends, but they seemed to be in a category all of their own and didn’t bleed into my real life. Couple friends seemed difficult to find.

Mom friends were easier to make. We were going through a scattered transition where we had to relearn who we were as we cared for a tiny baby. 

The mothering years seemed to find me alongside more like-minded women or at least we had the like-mindedness of loving our kids and being immersed in the “mom as Uber driver” years. I found a few women who I still stay in contact with, and we carry the peanut butter and jelly (or in our case Nutella) memories of our kids growing up together, family barbecues and trading child-care.

In my fourth decade, I feel a bit like the fourth grader who changed schools. I’m still seeking and finding deeper connections. I am an introvert, but I need an authentic, staying-power sanctuary of women who will witness life’s fickleness with me.

I am still tied like a square knot to a fourth grade relationship with my long-time close friend. We knew each other back when our parents could still tell us what to do and when we went to college together. We were also in each other’s weddings. We currently live more than a thousand miles from each other.

I need an authentic, staying-power sanctuary of women who will witness life’s fickleness with me.

I am also square-knotted to a twin-like friendship which was made by chance 10 years ago. I have an adventuresome long-time friend who is my workout buddy, back-packing accomplice and who hears the daily skirmishes of parenting and marriage. I am securing a knot to a newer group of women who I talk with on a weekly basis about my vocation and life story.

Friendships can be made at any age. As we grow in self-awareness and maturity, we are less likely to put effort into relationships which don’t have the ability to grow toward collective wellness. We gain clarity and become unwavering in our pursuit of people who spark and sustain that chemical reaction which creates mutual transformation.

Cultivating friendship is an art of growth.

How have you learned to make friends in different seasons of your life? What have you learned about the value of friendship?

Image via Fabrizio Scarpa, Darling Issue No. 19

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