I’m on vacation this week, so thought it would be fun to get input on my search from the people witnessing it first hand. For Research Wednesday, my mom explains why maintaining old friends is just as important as making new ones.
“Sociologists now have data showing that women who can maintain friendships through the decades are healthier and happier, with stronger marriages. Not all women are able to sustain those friendships, however. … When women are between the ages of twenty-five and forty, their friendships are most at risk, because those are the years when women are often consumed with marrying, raising children and establishing careers.” (Jeffrey Zaslow, The Girls from Ames)
As a woman in her late fifties (yikes!), I cherish the friends whom I have known all my life. I recently moved back to Chicago after 30 years in New York. After being a widow for three years, I decided to return to the city of my youth where I had my strongest support system, including family (sister, brother, daughter, cousins) and friends. While I have a few very close friends in New York, whom I miss terribly, I’m so lucky to have come back to those who’ve known me forever. There’s Joy, one of the first people to speak to me on the train to camp when I was nine years old. (The fact that she took one look at me with my very short haircut and said “What are you doing here? This is a camp for girls!” notwithstanding.) There’s Pat, who lived across the street from me growing up and with whom I spent almost every weekend night of elementary school. And there’s Laurie, who’s a cousin but has also been a close friend since we were high school cheerleaders.
There were times in my adult life when I didn’t have as much contact with these friends as I would have liked—they lived in Chicago and I was in New York—but they’ve always been there when I needed them. When my husband died, Pat and Laurie hopped on a plane to come to the funeral. Seeing them instantly made me feel a little better. It was a relief to be with people who knew me so well that I could totally relax with them. When my sister asked Joy, who was living in New Jersey at the time, to bring some food for lunch after the funeral, she showed up with enough for an army. I remember her saying “I got the sandwiches, then I decided that might not be enough, so I got the chicken, and in case that wasn’t enough, I got the salads.” In other words, she stepped up. I didn’t have to worry about a thing.
When I moved back to Chicago, there they were. Yes, they’re busy with boyfriends and husbands and jobs, but when I need to spend time with someone who knows me so well that I don’t have to be “on,” I can call any one of them.
So girls, don’t let the building of your adult life get in the way of maintaining the friendships you’ve spent so much time and energy developing. You’ll find that whatever effort it takes—going back to your home town for a wedding or reunion, taking time out of a family visit for lunch or dinner with pals—you’ll be glad you made it. Once you emerge from those years from twenty-five to forty, those long-time friendships will mean the world to you.