published Friday, June 17th, 2011

Leber: Holding onto friendships gets harder in your 30s

I’ve been thinking a lot about the people who come in and out of your life. Relationships change, some grow weaker and others stronger as the years go by. 

Friends I used to know so well, the ones who knew my intimate secrets and I knew theirs, are getting married and I’m not going to their weddings. And they won’t come to mine. Because we’re not close enough to actually be a part of one another’s major life events anymore. I’ve gotten emails signed with full names — first and last — as if I wouldn’t know who “Jane” was anymore.

I have such appreciation for the good that doesn’t change. There’s not a lot of it. I’m grateful for those friends I can call up, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve spoken, and the honesty is still there. In the past several years, I’ve seen a couple of old friends whom I hadn’t seen in years, and I was so happy that nothing had changed between us. We had changed, as people, but it didn’t feel like the time and geographic separation had created distance between us. 

I can’t decide whether I think things like Facebook make it better or worse. On one hand, it’s nice to get to at least have an idea of what’s going on with people I care about. And I’ve enjoyed getting to communicate with people who have been away, if you will, for a long time, like some ladies from a circle of friends long ago, or a classmate with whom I was never quite friends as a student but with whom I’ve enjoyed exchanges online.

But on the other hand, sometimes I don’t know how healthy it is to be on the periphery of so many lives, whether we’d be better off knowing our old friends are out there and wishing them well on their endeavors, whatever they may be. 

Of course, I don’t just mourn the losses, I appreciate the new people who have come (or come back) into my life — my friends I’ve made since moving to Chattanooga, for example. I’m no Miss Popularity, swimming in bosom buddies, but there are certainly a few people with whom I can share good, solid conversation. Or my cousin, whom I’ve seen maybe three times since we were young teenagers. She and I connected over Facebook and decided to be Weight Watchers buddies. Our email conversations about points merge with conversation about life, and I’m enjoying getting to know her a bit more. 

We spoke about this issue recently, about how friends aren’t often as central to our lives as they once were. As much as I wear out my “Friends” DVDs, how many of us really have that central, core group into our 30s? Our central relationships are with our romantic partners, or our children, or with the people who are sharing a common experience — fellow journalists, fellow Pilates enthusiasts, fellow Mormons, fellow mothers. 

“My closest girlfriend had a baby recently,” my cousin said, “and I no longer have a closest girlfriend. It makes sense, obviously, but it doesn’t take away the pain of the loss.”

It happens. I know. In my 30s, people have been moving in an out of my life, with my awareness, for more than 20 years. The trite expressions are all true. People grow apart. We grow up. We move on. We have our own lives. And we do. It happens. It’s a fact of life. But it’s a little sad. And every now and again, can we just please take a moment to acknowledge that fact?

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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