To date, my 24th birthday was my best birthday. I have placed that weekend celebration on such a high pedestal that I doubt any other birthday will ever trump it. Even as I type this, a sense of nostalgia waves over me as I conjure up pictures of the lounge where seven of my friends and I drank too much and danced too hard. I remember my outfit. I vividly see us in my studio apartment spread out across my bed, an air mattress, and a one-seater trying to sleep off the buzz of what good times use to feel like. I still have the anthology of Jean-Micheal Basquiat artwork that a friend gifted to me. I remember the martini set that I used repeatedly the months that followed. This was more than 10 years ago and I’m still in awe of the fact that five of the friends travelled from out of town. Their journeys lasting from three to upwards of eight hours to celebrate a non-monumental birthday with me. The showing up is definitely what stands out the most.
I’m only in constant contact with one of the friends from that unforgettable night. A few of the others and I talk a few times a year, while one of them I only hear about through updates on Facebook or from friends of friends. There were no huge fights, indiscretions, or fall outs. Life guided one of us through law school, others across grad school stages, all of us through failed relationship, most into marriages, many of us into labor and delivery rooms, two of us to other countries, and- probably more than I’m aware of- into bouts of depression. For reasons that are not conspicuous to me, I did not go through some of those shifts with them, nor them with me. Yet, I miss the idea of those friendships, if not each of them, and have spent the last few years of adulthood longing for those types of relationships and, in turn, being extremely lonely because I thought that I could no longer find them.
Just as with everything else in life, I have those “glory years” of friendships. I remember the rooms where I set for hours laughing, talking, and sharing secrets. Those times in college counting change together to buy a fast food meal, a bottle Smirnoff, or one time, shampoo and conditioner. I miss the freedom of having someone to cry with and fail in front of. I’d missed having a wingman and being that for someone else. It’s been a rough couple of years.
But, here’s what I’ve finally learned: I can’t live off the memories of past friendships in the hopes that they will propel me through today’s happenings. So, this year I became less nostalgic and more realistic about my desires and abilities to re-live my glory years- binge drinking, swimsuits, and friendships alike. What I have learned is that my needs and requirements for friendships now are hugely different from my needs in college and pre-marriage. I no longer needed to count change with someone else to get a meal. At this stage, I needed someone to stop me from counting calories and to make me eat the cake. I didn’t need to whine about every small fight that my husband and I had, but I did need someone to root and pray for us. I no longer had time for all night drinking sessions, but an hour coffee break always works. And while my birthdays are pretty non-existent now, my children’s birthdays are still quiet magically. I needed someone to show up for those…all four them, yearly. I also wanted people around that would open their homes to my children when I’m was in a jam. Or, even up to me when I needed a break because life as an expat can be rough at times. Lastly, I wanted friends that pushed me to work towards my goals outside of my 7–4 and after my children’s bedtime.
Once I stopped defining friendships the way that I did prior to marriage and having children, I was able to see that I had everything that I needed and wanted. I, somehow-unbeknownst to me, made friends and developed relationships with some pretty amazing people. From the videos sent of events at my children’s school by moms that know I want to be there but can’t, to the phone calls received from the states checking in on us, to people taking care of my children when they have breaks from school but I still work, and lastly to the friends that flip their entire schedule around to accommodate my ridiculous (as there is no better word) life as a mom of four. This is what friendship looks like for me now and I’m quite content.
So, while I’m still fond of yesterday friendships, I’ve become appreciative of the ones that I have today and of what that means for my tomorrows. For example, I’m already excited about my next child’s birthday party. I know that my friends will show up, and that the party will be as lit as it possibly can be for a three year old.