There are many kinds of friends. There are the friends we have forever and the friends we have because we are have some mutual interest. Our neighbors might be our friends because they live near us. We might have friends that are coworkers, but once the job changes, so do the friends. The one constant with friendship is that it is ever-changing.
When we are kids, we need our friends for companionship, entertainment, developing social skills and building self-esteem. As we grow into teenagers our friends define us. We identify with our friends and reject the ones that aren’t helping us create the image we desire. In young adulthood, we start to develop friendships with people who have the same interests or who are in the same location, like college or work, and we rely on these friends for companionship as we pull further away from our families.
As we age, our focus often turns back to family and our friends, though still important, often take up less of our time. We tend to give our attentions to the friends who we have deep, emotional connections with and let go of the ones that were merely companions. We feel so busy with work and family and life that we pick and choose which friends get our time.
Then as we retire and start to wind down our family lives, we often find communities of friends to connect with. We have the time to build those connections again and we often get great joy from these new connections through church or clubs or senior centers.
The journey is different for all of us, but as life continues to change, so do our friendships. The friendships that have the most meaning are the ones that can adapt over time to the changing needs of all parties involved. These friends are the ones who know how important they are and who we turn to in our times of need. But all friendships are important because we all need to feel connected, to be connected to others. Accepting where we are with friendships is a healthy and fulfilling way to hang on to friendships that really matter, and gracefully let go of the ones that we’ve outgrown.