Monday, August 01, 2005

Friends Last?

In my teens and twenties, friends were the most important thing in my life. I was fortunate to have a great group of friends in high school. They were honest people, we were really close, and our circles was unusually large (a core group of thirteen). Almost fifteen years after we graduated from high school, I still keep in pretty close touch with a handful of them.

In college, I made some very close friendships with people in the Christian fellowship I was a part of. We went through incredible times together: heights of joy, meaningful service, really dark times. These relationships are so seared into my life that to this day, they have a fresh influence on who I am.

Now in my thirties and with a baby on the way, the role of friendships is evolving. A colleague of mine who is a few years older than me and who had her first child last year told me that in her newly prioritized world, friends have become last in the pecking order: her immediate family, her extended family, her career, her domestic responsibilities, and finally her friends.

I wonder what our transition into parenthood will bring for Amy and me. Both of us were already pretty introverted to begin with, and have become even more so as we’ve entered our thirties. None of her closest friends live in the area, and many have faded out of her life. As for me, one of my closest friends passed away last year, one is on the mission field in South Asia, and another moved to the Midwest.

Meanwhile, other relationships are growing in importance. I’m sure I will grow closer to my parents as I become a parent myself and now have that in common with them. My wife and I are already growing closer together as a result of this adoption process. Of course, there is a little girl I will be getting to know, who will become a very important person in my life. Professionally, as I transition from working at the same place for ten years to becoming a full-time student and then venturing into an unknown new career and employer, I seek professional peers and mentors to help accompany and advise me.

So where does that leave friends? My colleague who told me friends have become last in the pecking order said it was especially true of friends who didn’t have kids, for they just had less and less in common in terms of big stuff (where the focus of their lives is) and little stuff (funny anecdotes about how their day had gone). But friends who do have kids are going to be just as busy as we are, juggling careers and parenting as we are.

In our teens and twenties, outside of either work or school, all we had was friends. We had the companions and the physical stamina to stay out late, do crazy stunts, and travel the world. Friendship in our thirties is going to look different. I don’t know that I’ll share the same perspective as my colleague, for I hope I’ll continue to cultivate special connections with dear friends. But I do know that it’ll look different.

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