When you’re little, there are plenty of things that you are adamantly naïve about. The existence of Father Christmas, the accuracy of everything your parents say and the fact that your best friends will be your best friends forever. But, as you begin to grow up different factors begin to challenge all of these things. You learn that a man managing to enter every house in the world in one night and coming down your chimney whilst you’re sleeping; would be both impossible and weird. You begin to read things for yourself and start challenging your parents sometimes ancient views. And you learn that there are many factors that can change the relationships which you thought would last forever.
I had four very good friends at primary school, that I thought would be everlasting. Making up songs in the toilet, sleepovers where we giggled all night and hardly slept, and school discos where we put a sign saying ‘7 minutes in heaven’ on the cloakroom door; even though we had no idea what we were supposed to do once we were in there. It never really occurred to me that life couldn’t remain that simple, until I entered the complex vortex which is secondary school.
A rigid hierarchy in which everyone existed in both harmony and constant fear. Friendships came and went like buses, one minute you’re in and the next you’re out. To be honest I didn’t know who I would remain friends with during this period of my life. Turns out I only made two real friends at school. So, the constant mission to impress the ‘it girl’ of the day, was a complete waste of time.
Long lasting friendships are those that can bend and alter when things around you begin to change. The naïve child in me likes to think that the friendships themselves don’t change, of course they don’t. We love each other and nothing can break that bond. Which to an extent is true, however, adulthood has sped through my life, leaving an obstacle course on which my friendships must manoeuvre and sometimes change.
The first obstacle that was dropped, was other friends. Sixth Form, University, Work, all create an environment where finding new friends is inevitable. No longer do you have one group that you’re desperate to spend your time with. You all begin to spread your wings, make new connections and have a busier social calendar. Meeting friends is no longer whimsical but, a strategic procedure requiring both your phone calendar and an array of highlighters and diary entries. For the first time, you could be free but your friends may be busy. You could be free, but they now live three hours away and the student loan won’t quite stretch to a train ticket let alone a five hour bus ride after your latest ASOS delivery. Or you could be free, but now also live with friends, so have to make time to be at home as well as making time to meet for ‘a quick drink’ with the friend you’ve known since you were 10.
Another obstacle growing up produces is change. It’s inevitable that as you grow older and grow into yourself, your interests begin to change. If I were to have a lunch date with the four friends I once loved at primary school, I’m sure that we would have almost nothing in common, apart from our nostalgia. Friends either grow together or they grow apart. Sometimes this is a good thing because holding onto someone just because they used to pop over to your house after school, isn’t really a strong enough basis for a good friendship: especially now that you have that busy diary to deal with.
The next obstacle is relationships. I’m on the high horse at the moment, as I’m single so can quite smugly put the blame onto those who have partners to give their attention to. When you fall in love, you’re taking on not only another person, but their family, friends and equally crowded diary. “Sorry G can we postpone tonight, Michael’s cat just died.” GIVE A SHIT? No, obviously I do give a shit. Well, I don’t because I don’t know who Michael is, I made him up for dramatic purpose. But you get the jist. You’re not only juggling your own life and scheduling, but someone else’s. Someone who you’re infatuated with and much prefer spending time with, as you get to bang them at the end of the night. Everybody knows that when your friend gets a new boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re pretty fucked for a few months because they’ll probably take early retirement from your friendship, until they realise that friends are equally as important and they come right back.
I’m not quite there yet, but the inevitable future which follows relationships are the obstacles of ‘settling down’. It’s no longer just adulthood, but full blown grown-up land. Careers, business trips, marriage, kids and running club on a Sunday morning. How on earth are you to juggle all of those things, whilst eating well, exercising occasionally, watching a damn good series and seeing your friends ALL WHILST HAVING A PERIOD ONCE A MONTH. (Sorry I’m on my period right now and it seems impossible to reach the remote control let alone juggle any of those daunting balls.) I suppose friendships become your escape. Perhaps you go full circle and realise, through all of that hectic mundanity, the only thing that may give you air, is a giggly sleep over and 7 minutes in heaven.
Because, that’s what friendship is to me. It’s heaven. It’s the things I want to say to myself but can’t. It’s the diary where I say things that I never would out loud. It’s the film that can make me laugh no matter how many times I watch it. And it’s the pair of jeans that fit me no matter how many times I’ve been to the gym that week, or how many bourbons I have eaten. I now know that I was naïve to think that my friendships wouldn’t change when I got older. But I refuse to accept that it’s naïve to think that they won’t remain as important. At school my friends were everything. There may now be things that demand more of our time and attention, but the importance of the friendships in my life has not dwindled.
On the contrary, it has flourished.