Maybe it’s my international lifestyle and having people I like and love spread across the world instead of a city or a country, but I honestly don’t know how to define a friend anymore. When I was younger, it was easy. My friends were the people I grew up with, went to school with. We had soccer practice every day, or our parents would get together so we would too, or our houses were in the same neighborhood and we’d spend the afternoons playing cops and robbers, and we’d all put our feet in the same circle to pick who was it (bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish).
In college, my friends became the random roommates I was put with or met at orientation. People I met down the hall, friends of those people became my friends. We all clung desperately to something now that we didn’t have our “old” friends to be with. At least I didn’t. More teams led to more teammate friends. We’d pile into vans for weekend cycling races, and then later onto a bus to head to a rugby game. We’d get a keg afterward and we’d all put our cups in the same circle to pick who was it (here’s to sister).
Then the next normal step to friendship is work friends, but coming out of college, I entered an office with three other people that were 20 to 30 years older than me, and there were no circles to pick who was it. No one was interested in playing anymore. But I had also started to lose sight of what was considered friendship. It was so easy when it was scheduled. When playing outside after school was a given. When chemistry class is going to happen every day whether I liked it or not. When lacrosse practice three times a week was a necessity.
Now I had to plan to meet with friends, but then this thing called social media came alive and the definitions got way more tricky. Whats a friend now? Someone that lives down the street or on the other side of the world? Someone that you text every day or someone that you plan to facetime with every month to check-in? Someone you haven’t seen since those circles of bubblegum feet? Or someone that is focused on the same goals that you’ve had from just last year and is helping you work toward them?
What are the requirements for friends? I don’t even know mine. Do you have to hang out every week? Every month? How much communication is needed? If they invite you out to do something, do you then have to do the same the next time? What if I’m just bad at planning things and don’t like throwing myself birthday parties and most of the time am just focusing on making money and surviving in this crazy world? Is that the end then? Do I lose lots of people that are planners because I am not? Do some people think exchanging likes on Instagram are enough? How many dates before you call someone new a friend? Is it like in a relationship? Why doesn’t anyone know anymore? What are we all doing? And if there isn’t a set of rules, why do we all get so awkward all the time when figuring it all out?
As one of my friends said the other day (a rugby friend, that I talk to on the phone probably once a week, but have only seen three times in about the last five or six years), I miss having rules. Having it all laid out. Knowing what is expected, knowing what we were supposed to be doing, and knowing you’ll see all your friends over the next week no problem because they’re ingrained in your schedule in games of capture the flag and math class and keggers after a rugby day. Now, scheduling a time to meet someone lasts for weeks of canceled plans and reworking projects. It’s a bunch of jumbled voice messages proclaiming our love for each other in between so-sorry-I-haven’t-got-back-to-you’s. It’s trying to schedule in human contact in a world where we’re losing it and filling our lives with other things that honestly aren’t as important.
And I still have no idea how to define a friendship. I just hope the friends I think I have think of me in the same way, and if anyone has their own definition, launch it into this cyber universe because maybe you can ground us a bit, and put our shoes in a circle again.