Maintaining Adult Friendships
Last year, around this time, I had just graduated from the University of Maryland. I wasn’t only coming off the high of being a recent graduate, but I had also found out that I had been accepted into the Johns Hopkins University (that was, indeed, a humble brag). In those moments, I was so excited about being admitted into such a highly regarded institution, that I didn’t really stop to think about what that would entail. It required me to move across the country—to Texas—the MAGA motherland. Not only was I about to immerse myself into a place with a culture that I had no understanding of, but I was also about to tear myself away from a place with a culture that I was completely comfortable in.
I was excited about that. I wanted to “step outside my comfort zone.” However, a large part of that comfort was rooted in my most stable support system—my friends. Good friends are truly hard to come by. In making the transition out of undergrad and into adulthood, it quickly became clear that the dynamics of my relationships and what I needed out of those relationships were changing.
Prior to this point, a friend, to me, was that person who would bring you food from the diner whenever Mother Nature decided to play double dutch with your Fallopian tubes; or that person who you pull an all-nighter with after a six hour rehearsal, because of a social construct called “grades”; or that person who would stop by for a ten-minute something, but would end staying ten hours because y’all was cuttin’ up.
These things clearly weren’t as likely to occur from 1500 miles away. In order to remain friends—especially in adulthood when our lives seem to take off in a million different directions—some things could not change. I narrowed it down to my three non-negotiables: Effort, Positivity, and Drive.
Effort Good friends put in a substantial amount of effort to maintain, and nourish, the friendship. At one point or another, I’m sure you’ve felt what it’s like to pour all of yourself into a relationship in which that same energy wasn’t reciprocated; it’s exhausting.
Upon entering adulthood, however, there are so many different things that are going to exhaust your energy. You may be looking for a job, starting a job, or figuring out what you want to do with your life. As a twenty-something, those things do not always happen independently of each other. Adding the stress of trying to reach a “friend” who’s never reachable can make you feel like you have nobody to confide in.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that a perfect equilibrium of effort needs to be achieved in order to maintain a friendship; but a good friend will be able to notice when it’s been long, and make that effort to reach out.
Positivity I find that the best of my friends find me in my darkest moments and pour their positivity into me until I’m able to get up on my own. If a friend is not contributing to your life in a way that is truly positive—it’s sad to say, but it may be time to cut ties. Negativity is cancerous; it spreads until there is no positivity left to consume. And negativity can present itself in so many different forms from not supporting your ambitions, to putting you in positions that can compromise your future. All of which can eventually lead to your demise, which a good friend would never want to see.
It isn’t enough for a friend to “send positive vibes” and support you from afar; there is an active positivity that comes with good friendship. And it comes from that person wanting to see you at your best. They tell you like it is without tearing you down. They provide laughs when you feel there is nothing to be happy about. They keep you from slipping when they can (because Lord knows you’re gonna go against everything they said and bust your behind anyways). Your best friends should be the lights in your life—not the sources of darkness in your life.
Drive You ever heard the phrase, “You are who you hang out with” ? I am a firm believer in that. As a result, I choose to surround myself with people who not only have dreams and aspirations, but people who also actively work towards those dreams and aspirations. I do this in the hopes that I will subconsciously adopt some of that work ethic in order to push myself towards my own goals.
Complacency is something I do not have room for in my life; I’d be a fool to ever think there is no more room for improvement. I like surrounding myself with others who subscribe to that same school of thought. My friends not only want me to be the best version of myself, but they also inspire me to become the best version of myself. As a result, we are able to give each other resources, bounce ideas off of each other, and, ultimately, create a network in which we all know, respect, and love somebody who is interested in what another one of us is striving for.
As you enter this new, unfamiliar, nerve-racking, but exciting stage in your life, it’s important that you decide what you need from, and what you are willing to give to, your support systems. Discover your own non-negotiables for your own friendships and implement them with fidelity; you’d be surprised just how much personal growth you’ll see in yourself and your friends.
It is inevitable, however, that you will come to realize some relationships are not meeting your needs—it is important that you recognize and express that as clearly as you can. (Apparently, expressing your concerns before cutting someone off is a part of being a mature adult; we’re still working on that). But of course, we do outgrow friends—and your non-negotiables may not be things that some friends are willing to subscribe to, whether they express that explicitly or implicitly. In those cases, I think K. Camp said it best, “It ain’t nothin’ to cut that b***h off,” keep it pushing, and continue to nourish the friendships that prove themselves to be fruitful—as those are the ones that are worth maintaining.