Why Is Friendship a Casualty of Growing Up?
Mixing it up this fine Friday.
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Pivoting a little bit today. I write a lot (outside of what I publish on Young Money), and this was a piece that I shared on Twitter and Instagram. I had a couple of friends text me asking where the link was, because they wanted to share it with their friends. So I figured it would be good to publish here too.
This may not be about your money or your job, but some of the most important things to consider while advancing your career have nothing to do with your career itself. They have a lot to do with your relationships.
Hope you guys enjoy 🤝
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a lot of things lately. Maybe it’s because I’ll be 25 in a few months (God that sounds old) and my frontal lobe is almost developed. Maybe it’s just part of me trying to figure out what exactly I’m doing with my life. Maybe it’s a side effect of being more intentional with decisions (I think this is most likely).
So naturally I’ve thought a lot about a few universal topics.
You know, the normal topics. The easy topics. There is no shortage of information about building a career. Or finding the right spouse. Or starting a family. Or managing your money. In fact, there is an abundance of information about these things. But there is something important to me that no one talks about.
From childhood to high school, I had plenty of good friends. But I never really felt like I fit in. Maybe that’s normal, because everyone feels like an outsider when they’re young.
College was a different story. A lot of college students play sports. And a lot of college students join Greek organizations. I was in a small niche of guys that did both.
What’s wild is that I wasn’t an outlier. In fact, there were 15-20 of us that were fraternity brothers and football teammates. Which meant for five years, we spent every waking moment together.
A group that prepared for Saturday afternoon’s football game at the field house, and Saturday night’s Halloween party at the fraternity house. That sang karaoke at 2 AM on a Wednesday before rolling into Thursday morning workouts together a just a few hours later. The guys who understood that college is supposed to be fun, but when there’s work to do, we’ll get it done.
The guys who hype you up when you finally ask out that girl. Who chest bump you when you score a touchdown. Who give you a shoulder to cry on when your family member gets diagnosed with cancer. Who listen to you curse the world when your parents get divorced. The guys who were involved in countless small, stupid, funny moments that always occur when good friends get together.
When you spend every waking hour with a group of friends for five years, a bond is inevitable. You have no choice but to love them. And it’s an awesome experience. Not everyone has that. I am fortunate.
College friendships are strengthened by proximity. When you live walking distance from all of your friends, it is convenient to see each other. To hang out. To talk about what’s going on in your life.
But at some point, that cool, weird, fun bubble community known as “college” comes to and end. And people join the real world.
A land full of fancy job titles. Real responsibilities. Mortgages and marriages. Families and finances.
Friends move to different corners of the state, the country, and the world to pursue their careers. Daily hangouts become weekly phone calls become quarterly reunions.
Slowly, then suddenly, the guys that you saw every weekend you now see at the occasional bachelor party. You reminisce on the glory days. The fun, irresponsible times. But those times are no more. And when the weekend is over, you go back to your separate lives until the next time.
Everyone gets lost in the maze of their own lives. And it gets harder to maintain those relationships.
You will always share the bonds from the past, but there isn’t much of a bond tying together the present.
Somehow, friendship became a casualty of growing up.
There is an old saying that Jesus’s greatest miracle wasn’t turning water into wine or raising the dead. It was being a 30-year-old with 12 close friends.
And it’s a shame how true that is.
Somehow it became normal to “age out” of your friendships. But sadly, it makes sense. In college, you live with all of your friends. Friendships don’t take effort. They’re a natural side effect of the university experience.
But the whole time that you’re in school, you’re taught to prepare for the real world. Stressing about job interviews. Imagining yourself climbing the corporate ladder. Wondering if you will end up marrying your girlfriend.
You don’t think about how your friends will fit in the “real world”. They’re your friends after all. They’ll always be there. Landing a job requires work. A healthy relationship requires work. Friendships? They never required work. They take care of themselves.
“I Just Don’t Have Any Time”
But friendships are relationships too. Like your relationship with your significant other, they take work. We learn about how hard marriage is. How hard parenting is. But we don’t learn how hard it can be to maintain friendships as we grow up.
Everyone sets off on their own paths. Chasing their own adventures. But no one told us to check in on our friends’ adventures. We’re all the protagonists of our own stories.
But now we’re living in our own worlds. And we don’t “have time” to maintain those friendships. That seems backwards as hell to me. If anything, our friendships should strengthen as we grow up.
As our lives get more serious, as we take on more responsibilities, as our careers grow stressful, as we get married, as we have kids, as we do all of these things…
we need good friends more than ever. Friends that accept us for who we are. Friends that we can discuss real stuff with. The guys who hyped you up when you finally asked out that girl. Who chest bumped you when you scored a touchdown. Who gave you a shoulder to cry on when your family member was diagnosed with cancer. Who listened to you curse the world when your parents get divorced.
Should now be the guys with whom we can discuss our career frustrations. Marriage struggles. Difficulties of parenthood. Questions about navigating this weird experience called life.
Yet somehow, friends disappear as we get older. That vacancy is filled by career and family. But I think close friends are just as important as family.
You don’t get to choose your family. It’s one big genetic lottery. But friends? You do choose those. And if you choose right, you just might find some that are closer than family.
We all have a weird uncle, or cousin that we can’t stand, or some other family member that we probably wouldn’t associate with if we didn’t share a last name.
You don’t have those forced associations with friends. You find people who share your interests. Worldviews. Passions. Or really any number of things. And when you realize that a relationship with them makes your life better, you become friends.
Friends are the best example of 1+1 = 3.
They say a man is fortunate who was one true friend. If that’s true, I consider myself the richest man in the world. I have a dozen friends that I could call at 3 AM, and they would drop anything to come help me. And I would do the same for them.
I had four friends interrupt their lives to come visit me in Europe for weeks at a time.
And I have a constant stream of friends coming in and out of my house 24/7. It’s awesome.
When I went to Europe for four months, one of my only real reservations was losing touch with everything going on in my friends’ lives. Because “out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing. And when you’re six time zones away, you’re about as out of sight as they come.
So I made a point to call all of them at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes there was nothing important to talk about, but that didn’t matter.
What mattered was talking. Not what we talked about.
I still call all of my friends all the time. Because it’s important to me. I would say that I initiate most of my phone calls, and that used to bug me. After all, why was I having to “start” every conversation?
But then I took a step back and thought about it. We’re all the protagonists of our own stories. And we can get so absorbed in what we’re doing, that we forget about everything going on with everyone else. We are all guilty of getting so caught up in our lives that we don’t check in our those we care about enough.
So I don’t mind being the guy who checks in the most. Who cares who starts the conversation? The point is to make the conversation happen.
I want to hear about careers. And dreams. And aspirations. And fears. And relationships. And everything that my friends want to talk about. Because if you can’t share those thoughts and experiences with those you care about, then what is the point of it all?
The last couple of years have been cool, because I still see most of my close friends all the time. Plus now we have more money and more free time (football really puts a damper on your flexibility). Which means we can do a lot of fun, cool stuff whenever we want.
Life is really good right now.
But I know this won’t last forever. Because guys will get married. Move away. Take on more responsibilities. And these changes often come at the expense of friendships.
Now some friendships serve a time and purpose in your life. Here for a season, and then they’re gone. Our values and goals change, and we have to adjust our circles accordingly. But other friendships have no reason to quietly fade away.
It just happens.
And I used to think this was an inevitable change. But I don’t think that’s true anymore. Friendships are often a casualty of growing up, but they don’t have to be.
What I thought was a casualty of “growing up” was the result of negligence. They won’t survive on their own without us putting in work. It takes work to lead a healthy marriage. Raise good kids. Have a successful career.
It takes work to maintain strong friendships. And we don’t think about that, because friendships are effortless for 20+ years. Then one day, they aren’t so effortless.
But no one is used to putting in effort here. And everyone gets caught up in their own lives.
In college, making friends was a byproduct of our lifestyles. As we grow up, losing friends is a byproduct of our lifestyles.
But it doesn’t have to be. Call your friends. Let them know that you care about them. Ask what’s going on in their lives. Schedule trips. Make plans to hang out. And don’t let excuses like “I’m too busy” get in the way of what’s important.
Friendship isn’t a casualty of growing up, unless you let it be.