First of all, I need to say that I’ve been lucky enough to have found some very good friends in recent years. I’m not talking about casual friends, I’m talking about true friends: people I can count on when I need help, people who let me express exactly what I am thinking and feeling without judging, and people who encourage me to be the best person I can be. Their friendship is an incredible gift, and I never doubt how lucky I am to have them in my life.
But one of the advantages of aging is the gift of life-long friends, those “old” friends I have known for most, if not all, of my life. The awkward teenage years, the nervous new-mom years, all the way to the “how will I ever survive menopause?” years, these are the friends who have seen it all, or at least most of it. There’s nothing quite like spending time with people you have known for decades. They’ve been a constant in my life, and when I say, “remember when?” they always do. Often they add memories that I have forgotten until they bring it up, and then I have a new memory to savor. There’s something deeply comforting and affirming in those kinds of friendships.
“Old” friends don’t feel the need to impress each other, which means you can talk openly and honestly about almost everything. They know your strengths, and encourage you to use them. This blog would not have been started without the almost constant encouragement (okay, nagging, but in a good way) of a friend I met in sixth grade, and I am beyond grateful to her for that. Old friends also know your weaknesses, which just means they know exactly when to step in and offer a helping hand.
In a world where we are so used to having to “put our best foot forward” and hide our faults, it’s no small gift to spend time with people who accept us just they way we are. I often joke that I would never use any of my life-long friends as a job reference, simply because they know way too much about me! But that is fine, as I have plenty of people who know only the public, “surface” me (several have told me how calm I am, which couldn’t be further from the truth) who I can list as a reference if I ever need one. But those aren’t the people I turn to in times of need, or when something wonderful has happened and I want to share it.
True, life-long friends are the ones who keep us grounded, keep us going when times get rough and are a constant reminder that we are never really alone. They make the problems of middle age seem so much easier to bear. And the nicest thing about making new friends is that, twenty years from now, I’ll have even more old, long-term friends. It almost makes me look forward to my senior years…..