Essay: A Friendship Lost or a Friendship Changed?

Writer Elizabeth Maxwell notes how friendships are altered as you grow up.

One of the most difficult parts of growing up is accepting the fact that your childhood friendships will change as you grow older. Even if they’re with the same people, entering a new stage of your life will alter your friendships. 

This change doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, but it may be hard to accept. 

Leaving for college made me realize that I’ll never have the access to my hometown friends I was so accustomed to. I was no longer in San Diego where I could drive five minutes to my best friend’s house or meet my friends at our favorite bagel shop. 

Being in a time zone two hours ahead of my hometown made it increasingly difficult to even get friends on the phone. We were on different schedules — something completely foreign for me. We attended the same schools for years, and I was used to being a part of each of their days. 

Throughout high school, I was so sure that I would never miss it. I hated the years of teenage angst, early morning classes and strict rules. I spent high school waiting for the day I could move on. 

But I didn’t take into account the fact that I would miss my life outside of high school. When I left, it suddenly hit me that I could never be in a place with such little responsibilities again. Of course, there were new opportunities to be had with new friends, but my life living freely with my hometown friends was over. 

Returning home for summer, I was hopeful things would return to normal, for a couple months. 

While my friends were the same as they had always been, our availability had changed.

I was disappointed when I realized how hard making plans had become. We no longer had hours on end to sit around together or drive to the beach if we wanted to. Making plans now requires reaching out days in advance, and it’s rare to find a time convenient for all of us. 

Hanging out with friends from home was no longer a given. Instead, the time we spend together is the result of effort from both sides. I’ve learned that it’s important not to take your friends’ lack of availability personally. Not being a part of their everyday life doesn’t mean you’re any less valuable to them. Your relationship has simply evolved into something more mature. 

When you’re in high school, friends are the center of your world. Days are devoted to spending as much time with them as possible. As you grow up, you no longer have the privilege of making your friends your first priority. The obligations and responsibilities you gain as you age demand your attention and lessen your leisure time. 

Instead of dwelling  on the fact that I will never be as young and free as I was just two years ago, I’ve accepted the truth that things have changed. 

When I first noticed the difference in our relationships, I worried that I would lose them completely, and I was forced to acknowledge that changes in friendship don’t mean those friendships are lost. 

I know that if I ever need the friends I’ve held for over a decade, they’ll be there. Though it’s not the same as being able to barge into their house unannounced, I could still get them on the phone if I truly needed to. 

Rather than remaining caught up in the negative changes, you can focus on the fact that your interactions are more meaningful now. When you’re able to talk or see each other, it’ll mean you truly put in the effort to do so. 

A phone call is likely the result of knowing that there’s only one person who can help you with something you’re going through. An in-person interaction is filled with excitement and longing after so long apart. 

As your life changes,  the effort you put in to see each other shows how much you care. As you each grow, your true friends will stay with you as long as you let them. 

Feature image courtesy of Elizabeth Maxwell

Elizabeth Maxwell

Elizabeth Maxwell