F*ck. I’m 40. That is a lot of years. And gray hairs. And gone hairs. On the sunny side, it means a lot of friends acquired along the way. So I want to spend this week thinking about them. Nothing in my four decades of life has been more fulfilling, important or sacred than cultivating unbreakable bonds with my upper echelon friends. So much so, I’m writing (slowly, but steadily) an entire book on friendship. Below is an excerpt from this future book - assuming I live long enough to publish it. I am old now so you never know. These words come from a chapter that deals with how friendship changes from adolescence through adulthood. Enjoy.
(from my future book)
In high school, your best friend was the one you had sleepovers with. You debated who was hotter, Alyssa Milano or Drew Barrymore. You played Zelda in sleeping bags until the wee hours of the morning. At the time, this friendship seemed like it would last forever, but you were too young to know for sure. As you age and mature, your free time diminishes faster than your celebrity crushes. You end up seeing your friends less frequently. You fall into amorous relationships and have less time for your friends. You lose touch with some, go through rocky patches with others. None of these factors change the rules of friendship - they only reinforce them. Life’s evolutions and impediments are the ultimate torture tests of friendships. Only the strongest survive.
Your friends have a profound influence on you, especially as you age. A study in Scotland found that people aged 35-50 think it’s more difficult to decline a drink from a friend than when they were younger. Influence isn’t a bad thing. You welcome it. Your value it. Most importantly, you must embrace it whether you’re a time-depleted mom with two toddlers running around in diapers – or a senior with all the time in the world with two nursing home besties (also likely wearing diapers). Sharing, trusting, influencing and pooping. That’s what solid friendships at any age are based on.
“Friends every Five”
To illustrate how the role of friendship changes along with age and stage, consider this list which explains who was my best friend every five years of my life, right up until today.
Age 5: The neighborhood kid (same age) who came over to give me a birthday present (Grape-flavored Bubblicious gum)
Age 10: My closest Little League teammate – Team McDonalds. Every time we won, we got to go there and eat free - and throw pickles on the wall to see if they would stick.
Age 15: When you’re 5'1”, 115lbs and have of smart alec mouth, it’s good to have a friend twice your size as you enter high school.
Age 20: A Syracuse crew teammate. Lots of 5am rides to the boathouse. That’s a bond that can’t be broken.
Age 25: My future wife. Before we were together, we were just friends. It took two years, and one weird night, before we realized we were more than Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch buddies.
Age 30: My college roommate (thus exempt) but after college, we stayed tight. He’s the only person I’ve ever lent more than a $1000. Yes, he paid it back.
Age 35: One of my top friends since high school. We had many things in common - basketball, chasing girls, concerts, hanging out in malls for some ungodly reason. When he had a close family member pass away a few years ago, naturally, it shook him hard. I immediately booked a flight for the funeral. He didn’t expect it, but I know it meant a lot to him.
Age 40: Former coworker and creative partner. After our business relationship ended, we became closer. We’ve travel together, picnic together and occasionally exchange gifts (not Bubbalicious gum).
Friendships evolve over time, from trivial to meaningful. The one constant – my quality of life is directly proportional to the quality of friends around me. This is just as true at 40 as it was at five. I may be old now, but I feel so lucky that I’m not schlepping over the hill alone.