I bet, if I asked, you could tell me about your best friend in elementary school. You could tell me all about this person, and why the two of you were close. I’d most likely hear about fun times you had, and many things you did together. Are you still close to this person, though? Are you still connected? Possibly, but more likely than not, memories are all you have, not a current friendship. Sadly, I’ve found that looking for friends becomes becomes harder to do as life goes on.
My first best friend when I was younger was named Leslie. She lived around the corner, and we had countless sleepovers and play dates. Then she moved, and we lost touch. Life continued on, and while in high school I picked up many of the friendships I maintain to this day. During the chaos of recent months, I’ve found myself leaning more heavily on my high school friendships. This is a good thing though, and here’s why.
Your chances to connect with people on a personal level are harder to find as you adopt more responsibility in life.
Once you become an adult, you spend more time at work than anyplace else. It becomes easy to let people in your office setting fill your natural need for friendship. They may or may not share personal interests with you, but since you’re surrounded by them all day, they become your friends.
This isn’t always a good idea.
Boundaries easily get blurred at work. Your workmates might hear about your family dramas, snark sessions regarding the boss, complaints about terrible customers–all sorts of things you should probably leave unsaid. People get confused, though. By spending so much time together, it’s easy to spill your guts, and feel a false sense of intimacy with each other.
Oversharing leaves you vulnerable to office politics, changes in leadership and jealousy from coworkers. Regrettably, our workplaces are becoming more and more competitive, so keeping your personal life more private is a wiser business move.
Be kind, be friendly, be helpful and resourceful at work–but don’t be the one without boundaries. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of friendship with the people you work with, because things could easily change.
By investing too heavily in work relationships, you could be left without friends if things ever evolve in your employment status.
This is something I noticed in my own life.
I’ve been pretty public about my transition out of the traditional work force. I used to have a solid core of people I considered to be friends, but when I left my workplace, I stopped hearing from any of them.
This was a painful transition, to be honest. I was startled by how little these people seemed to care about me, when for years, our daily interactions seemed to be so solid. Their lack of interest was painful, since we had been so connected when sitting by side by side.
Many of these were friendships, it turns out, were friendships of convenience.
They were relationships based upon proximity, just like my relationship with Leslie was all of those years ago. Once I left the geography of our workplace, I wasn’t part of the stream that connected all of us, so I became irrelevant.
Gently examine your own list of friends, and see if they come from your job, or your life. You know–your real life–the one that doesn’t change once your paycheck does.
One of the changes you’ll discover as you age is that fewer people matter to you.
Getting older has helped me crystallize what really matters most. People now matter to me more than things, and the friendships from my past have become incredibly important. These friendships were formed before my days in the cubicle, and came out of my passions, not my work. So the girls I played high school tennis with, the kids I spent hours with in the auditorium during play rehearsal–these are the friendships I now cherish, because they are based upon my passions.
As my long-term friends and I age together, we enjoy a common bond based upon our hearts–not our paychecks. Our shared memories connect us into a solid community of people.
We cheer each other on through health issues, job losses, the deaths of our spouses and children–all the things that affect us as human beings, not corporate workers.
Because my friendship circle is becoming smaller, it’s becoming stronger. As I drop the people from my life who are part of my ‘geographical friendship’ list, I’m bringing closer the people who know me for my soul, not my earning power.
This is a refreshing change for me, and very liberating.
I’m not the only person who thinks this way.
Sharon Greenthal, a fellow blogger I’ve discovered, did a post called ‘What Does Midlife Really Mean’. Here’s a sentence from her article that really caught my attention: “For many at midlife, being part of a crowd isn’t nearly as important as having a few meaningful, deep relationships to sustain them.”
Yes. This is exactly what I’m talking about.
During midlife, we decide the people around us must be good people. We’re tired of fake, we’re tired of backstabbing and we’re tired of office politics. We recognize our friends must be closely aligned to what we want in life, because our time has become more limited.
Midlifers recognize conversations of the heart are more important than gossip sessions in the break room. We treasure the people who remember our young ambitions, and offer only polite nods to those more interested in our resume.
Looking for friends as we get older may be as simple as looking back, not just ahead.
No matter where you are in life, I encourage you to tenderly examine your list of friends.
Stop thinking your solid friendships are with the people you work with. Seek instead people who love you for your heart’s desires, no matter your age. Join book clubs, or adult sports teams. Volunteer for issues you care about about. Track down people on Facebook you haven’t spoken to in years. Yes, I agree–you may find a true friend in your office, but chances are–that relationship will go away once the job does.
Look instead, for people outside of the office, who really love you for you. Reignite some of your old relationships. Connect with people who share some of your personal history. Then– tell me all about it. I’d love to hear you tracked down an old friend, or even renewed a romantic relationship.
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**Chanler Jeffers has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent and was a single parent for many years. She has survived cancer, and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way–one more thing. She’s married to a Bass playing rock star, lucky girl.