5 Pieces of Advice on Friendship I Wish I'd Known Then
No two friendships are exactly the same, which makes being friends with people a unique experience. When we're young, we think friendships are forever. But then, when we finally have one end, it's absolutely devastating.
Before my first childhood friendship ended, and even before my last adult friendship ended, I wish I'd known a few things about these unique relationships. I've learned a lot from and about friends over the years, and here's what I wish I'd known as a kid.
Nothing Lasts Forever
My childhood, especially that transition from elementary to middle school, would have been a lot happier if I'd had any clue that friendships weren't always meant to last forever. Friendships come and go, people grow apart, and move away, and sometimes that's just the way it is.
That transition from elementary to high school is typically the first time we experience changes in our friendship circles. When friends go off to college, they sometimes grow apart. Even adult friends sometimes grow apart because of relationship changes, location changes, and even job changes.
Some childhood friendships last or circle around again. You lose touch and then find each other in person or on social media. The ones that don't last were simply stepping stones in your life, and it's okay that they're over.
Every Person Has a Purpose in Your Life
This is where those stepping stones come in — even the shortest friendships likely taught you a lesson. Perhaps you learned good lessons, like that growing apart is part of growing up. However, there are bad lessons, too, like learning that some people aren't trustworthy or are only friends with you for what you can do for them.
The lessons we learn from the friendships that come and go from our lives are vast. This list is based on some of the ones I have learned, but I've also learned that some friends come to you to bring you even more friends. Some of my best friendships were cultivated from friends of friends.
Forgiveness Is Optional
The loss of a friendship, and those tougher lessons learned, are often painful. Perhaps we get hurt or hurt the other person; it's an unfortunate part of being human. You don't have to forgive everyone, but sometimes forgiveness can bring old friendships back.
I cringe whenever someone says you “have” to forgive those who've hurt you or you'll never heal. Letting someone off the hook for hurting you feels like giving them a free pass to me. It says it's okay for them to do it again. Do what feels right to you.
I've found that if I seriously miss someone and I can see their side of our falling out, forgiveness becomes worthwhile if it might fix a broken relationship. While I've practiced forgiving some people who've wronged me, I feel fine not having forgiven everyone.
There's No Age Limit on Friendship
In school, we tend to find friends in our own age groups or somewhere within them. A grade ahead or behind, depending on what classes you're sharing, is common. We also make friends when we participate in extracurricular activities, including Girl Scouts.
In adulthood, friends come in a wider range of ages because we meet them in places where age means less. You meet people of all ages in college. You meet people of various ages at work.
Being 40-something and having friends in their 20s and 30s doesn't seem like such a large gap anymore. While we might not have a ton in common, we can always find some sort of mutual interest to build a friendship off of.
Learn to Be Your Own Friend
While having someone to share your joys and pains with is wonderful, it's important to find a friend within yourself as well. Alone time shouldn't feel like a punishment and doesn't have to leave you longing for the company of others.
Nothing is more important than learning to enjoy your own company. Many people find little comfort in alone time and struggle with the silence it brings. This is the perfect time to get to know yourself and find things you love to do on your own.
Friendships need nurturing, so be sure that you're showing your pals how much they mean to you. Make time for friends, and learn to let go when the time comes. Take time to learn their purpose in your life while being purposeful in theirs.