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Go where you are wanted
And stay there.
In this newsletter we talk about change. And, for me, the biggest changes of the last four years were in my relationships. Specifically, my friendships.
I left New York City after nine years and had to leave behind the only adult life I’ve known and build an entirely new one. Working from home as a freelancer who knew next to no one, I spent more time alone than ever. The limits of my self-love and self-confidence were tested. People left my life, new people came in, and then some of them left too.
Change is one of life’s only guarantees. And your friendships are guaranteed to change because both individuals within that relationship will change. You will change your values, priorities, job, city, relationship status, interests, goals, and core belief system. And so will they.
A new therapist gave me some excellent advice earlier this summer: You must accept that your relationships are changing, and give them space to do so. And, if possible, communicate with your friend about what your friendship will look and feel like now.
Are there new boundaries you each need to consider? (Like, maybe someone now has a child, or you’re seriously limiting your screen time.) Are random calls okay, or would scheduling a time be preferred? FaceTime or phone call? Text or voice message? Long, meandering deep dives or brief updates? How often should we try to see each other in person?
Vocalize concerns and requests rather than stuffing them down, leaving them to bubble up in resentment months (or years) down the line. Say what you need to say because you know that your friend cannot read your mind, and you care about them enough to work to keep them in your life (if they, too, are willing).
Change is one of life’s only guarantees. And your friendships are guaranteed to change because both individuals within that relationship will change.
Also, consider that in friendships there are times one person needs to lean harder on the other, and vice versa. I’ve been intentional about seeing these seasons for what they are, then setting my ego aside to allow them to exist. Women who are older than myself and have gone through more seasons of change promise that some friendships will come back around, once the bad relationship ends or the children are in high school or they leave that job with the insane hours.
Friends that were able to go through these open and honest processes with me, grew with me.
Then—and this might be the truly hard part—allow your friendship to be what it is now, rather than what it used to be, or even what you’d like it to be.
That doesn’t mean you should stop tending to it. I’ve gathered up my friends to me like a mother hen cuddled up with her chicks in the coop, hiding away from the swirling wind and nipping wolves outside. I’m protective and even aggressive about holding each and every one of them close. I know now that I must keep a watchful eye on my friendships, or they will wither. I must intentionally let my people know that I love them, make time and space for them, be open to their feedback—and forgive them when I feel a little shoved aside or forgotten about.
Allow your friendship to be what it is now, rather than what it used to be, or even what you’d like it to be.
Sometimes, your friendship will naturally fade because you no longer fit into each other’s lives in the ways you once did. Sometimes no one will be at fault for this. Sometimes it might be their fault, and you will feel as though you were betrayed with a knife in the night, et tu Brute-style. Sometimes it will be your fault, and that can feel just as awful. (And prompt deeply uncomfortable soul-searching.) And, sometimes, if you know that you’ve done all that you can, you must choose yourself and let them go.
Through all of the pain, fear, and joy of navigating friendship in my 30s, there’s one lesson I hope to share with all of you:
Go where you are wanted. And stay there.
Who laughs at your jokes, calls you to share important news, cares about and respects your opinion, inquires about your well-being, really listens to you, accepts you with all of your faults and quirks, and makes you feel a little more like you?
That’s who you belong with.
You could waste a lot of time and energy trying to win (or win back) the favor of those who will never be able to love you in the ways you need to be loved.
Instead, fix your gaze on those who are already looking back at you.