Communal Study 006: Life Stage Friendships

“Things change & that’s okay”

The accessibility of friendship (quantity & ease) is the biggest determining factor in how you will interact & feel within a given life stage.

In highly organized structures like schools, teams, and organizations, friendship is highly accessible and, relative to non-organized structures, extremely easy. There is an abundance of people who most likely share some similar backgrounds and interests, and in the majority of cases are around the same age. That is not to say that similarity is the greatest recipe for a good friendship, but it does make it easier to talk. All friendships begin with a conversation.

High school and college (if you attended) are massively significant to how you relate to friendships as a concept. I know that there are people who, even in organized structures, struggle to find friends and make connections but we would argue that outside of those structures, it is increasingly more difficult to bridge that gap. Within these structures, if nothing else, there is probability. There are just that many more people in your immediate surroundings who you have the opportunity to reach out to. If your school experience was anything like ours, there was a fairly large overarching “group” of friends that you were somewhat involved in/with. Within this larger group, you had 1-3 “core” friend groups. Within these groups, you might’ve had 1-4 people who you really felt were “good” friends.

These friends, whether you want to categorize them as that or not, are “college friends”. There is a reason most adults refer to these friends, almost colloquially in a sense, as such. The basis of the friendship and how you and a friend, for example, learned to interact was in the context of that life stage, college. In the context of living in the same city, doing similar things, interacting in similar circles.

Most things your “college friends” did while in college, were things you could relate to. They were things you could probably take part in. And they most likely lived within 10-15 minutes of you.

Unfortunately and fortunately, things change. The things we did in college for the most part do not persist upon moving forward in life. Post-school life is drastically different than school life. Work becomes the primary “thing” that people do. You are working more than you are not, so unless you happen to work with some of your college friends or live with them, you will not be doing “the same thing” for the majority of your time.

In unstructured environments, there are fewer spontaneous opportunities to meet people and strengthen friendships. You're not rubbing elbows with peers or bumping into potential friends unless you make an effort to go somewhere or do something that attracts the type of people you want to be friends with.

School is a life stage just as your first 5-10 years working are a life stage. Being in your 20s and early 30s for most people is a very specific life stage that whether you like it or not, previous life stages are very very different from. Therefore, those friendships do not seamlessly carry over in form, even if they do carry over proximally / geographically.

Transforming a life-stage friendship from one to another takes a lot of deliberate time, thought & effort. There are a few cases where it will transfer over naturally, if you have roommates or work with each other directly, etc. But for the majority, where that doesn’t apply, we’re left to restructure these friendships that once fit one way in a shared reality to a way that fits separate, evolved realities.

Thinking about the relationships in our lives that have withstood a life stage change, communication has been at the center of that success. The ones that didn’t evolve were ones where inevitable new boundaries, schedules, and expectations were not discussed.

Success in this type of transition involves recognizing when something doesn’t feel the same and having a conversation about how to adapt & evolve. Left in silence, these old modes of friendship will continue to dissipate because they are no longer nourished by the same kinds of interactions they used to be.

New life stages should be something worth celebrating. When two people “graduate” from a certain life stage to another, together, there is a notion that friendship will also naturally change with them. When one person moves into a different life stage and not the other, there can be a sense of hopelessness that the friendship will not persist as it once did.

Both cases are faulty assumptions. It takes work to transition a friendship across life stages even if both parties are “graduating” from one life stage to another AND when only one moves into a different life stage.

When both move into a new life stage, there must be communication on what each person is experiencing and pursuing with their time in the new life stage.

When only one moves into a new life stage there must be a sense of compassion from the one who did not enter a new life stage, understanding that even though things have remained the same for them, the other’s life has changed drastically. With that change will most likely follow some friction and adjustment period before settling into new rhythms.

Things change & that’s okay.


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