I was going to wait and post about my party tomorrow but yesterday’s post was such a downer that I didn’t want to leave that as the heading on the blog for long. Friendship has always been a highly important part of my life. Next to faith there is nothing more valuable to me than a loyal friend. I was reminiscing with my roommate about groups of friends we’ve had, parties thrown etc, and I had a minor epiphany about friendships. Friendship is essential to at least my function but it manifests itself differently in different times of life. Hanging on to the old manifestation can lead you to miss out on the current phase.
Let me explain…
When you are a child and especially a teen your friendships are chosen by you but fellow-shipped by others. For example, I may have chosen Meredith as my best friend in high school but it was our parents, teachers and other activities that facilitated that friendship and made it happen. At the very least people were driving us places, teaching us lessons and coaching us in choir/sports. We became friends through participating in these activities and even when we tested out our leadership skills it was under a controlled, monitored environment.
It is this structure in friendships that causes some teens to party and rebel- trying to make their own choices when really still relying on others to make those poor choices. Fortunately I had good friends who were supportive of my beliefs and I never steered too off course (I was also incredibly strong willed).
Your teen years are also the time when your friends center your life, which is why we worry about teens having or cultivating good friends. No other time in life will who your friends are (for most of us at least) be more influential.
Then your 20’s start and a new degree of independence is given to most people. You are free to go your own way, make decisions and make friends dictated less by others and more by common interests and personalities. Aside from classes and maybe an errant roommate nobody is really forced to be friends with someone in the 20’s the way they may be in your teens. However, you still have a lot of the structure of your teens facilitating activities and the meeting of new people (even dating).
Whether it be through a church group or college setting most people I know met their college friends through some type of organization, fraternity or class. The interesting thing is in college the friendships are often made in such activities but forged in something much more casual. This is partly due to lack of time a college student has but also a lack of funds. Most people I knew in those years didn’t have a ton of money to spend on friend experiences so you spent time together watching movies, TV, sports events and cooking/eating food together.
I have such warm memories of that time in my life. It really helped me become the person I am and was a very happy, simple time. Because things were so casual you do end up wasting a lot of time seeing bad movies, eating junk, and for lack of a better word hanging out but there’s a certain freedom in that. How do you know what movies you like if you don’t see a couple of turkeys? All part of the learning experience.
After my college experience I had my mission which was so separated from normal life I will skip over it for this entry. Then you get into my later 20s (I got home from my mission when I was 24 1/2). This was actually one of the most social times in my life but interestingly enough it mixed the casualness of my college life with a little bit more structure. At this point my friends and roommates had jobs which gave us a little bit more money but less free time. We would still see the occasional bad movie but most activities were researched and thought out.
There was also a lot of routine socialization that happened at that time. For a long time I had a daily dinner group (which I still think was brilliant) where a bunch of us singles were assigned a day of the week to make dinner for the group, so you got a social experience and only had to cook once every 12 days. So great. I also had groups that met regularly to watch a lot of tv shows like American Idol and The Office. For a while in my apartment in American Fork we had 3 or 4 nights a week that had some kind of TV viewing together. I watched Lost every night for 2 years with friends and then I moved and never watched it again. That certainly tells you the influence of friends!
This was actually a hard time in my life personally and it’s amazing I fit so much socializing in when I was working 60 hours, serving at the temple, had 2 other callings and going to grad school. I wouldn’t have done much of it if it wasn’t presented at my door with little to no effort. The house in American Fork was especially good for socializing because we were the only one’s with our own apartment in the ward. Everyone else lived at home so our place became something of an escape for our friends. It’s funny that time in my life is probably where I maintained the fewest of my friends. People got married, moved, and the friendships are mostly through facebook or gone and that’s ok, just interesting.
During my later 20’s is also the only time in my life where I through big parties with lots of people. Or I should say my roommate and I did. We had great Halloween and New Years parties, planned outings and group dates together, concerts (went to more concerts then than ever again), and seemed to find excuses to wear costumes on a number of occasions. Despite it being a challenging age, I have many warm memories. I often drive by the house in American Fork and feel a wave of nostalgia for the good times had just watching TV together with my friends.
Then my 30’s came and things started to change (really more at 28 but close enough). Seemingly overnight the big group TV sessions and parties stopped and everything became more one-on-one, highly planned, intimate interactions with friends. This may not seem like a big deal but I remember feeling so sad that I had no one to watch American Idol with any more or celebrate Halloween (our last ‘big’ party was 2009).
While still loving to entertain it takes a lot more effort now than it used to. No just casual ‘let’s go to the apartment and watch The Office every week’ kind of thing. It takes work but that work can be a joy. It took me a long time to realize that I really enjoyed gathering my friends together and coming up with fun activities. I did swimfests, book clubs, baby showers and dinner parties and loved every one of them. Occasionally I could still pull off the big party like last year for my open house (or tomorrow to celebrate 40 book club books!) but it’s just different.
In 2009 I wrote a post on this very blog about a book club I threw where nobody came and how discouraged I was. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2009/06/10/thoroughly-uncool/ I remember feeling so sad that nobody had come to my party: “I am merely puzzled by my recent inability to attract new friends. It isn’t just with Enrichment but the few times I have had parties the turnout is low. I used to be able to always attract a crowd. Weird, hah?”
The problem I was truly dealing with was looking at a new era of friend-shipping through old eyes. Like I said, sometimes I still feel nostalgic and a little sad for those times. It can feel like I make so much effort and in a selfish mood it can seem underappreciated when it really isn’t. People love it and it means a lot to them but it just takes a lot of work to make friendships in this era of my life function.
Truth is those friendships are better because I’ve had to work hard for them. Unlike the fun time in my late 20s where most of the people have come in and out of my life I have a feeling the friends I have made in the last 5 years will always be a part of my life. That’s what work tends to do. Plus, in a way it is kind of a circle of friendship. When I was a teen others allowed me to make friends, now I am facilitating that experience for others. That is a great gift not a burden.
Anyway, I don’t know if this will mean much to any of you out there but even my friends online (twitter, facebook, this blog) take work but I’ve learned so much from that process. I’ve learned to cook, decorate and entertain. Plus, I’ve learned to actually appreciate and discuss the arts, movies, theater, etc. It’s not casual like those days in my 20s but it’s very rewarding and great.
In the end, enjoy the season you have now. Look fondly on the past, remember the smiles and moments and then try to learn and serve as much as you can in the present.
It’s a good life and I’m grateful for my friends! To a fun day tomorrow!