A Million Little Things

I was recently able to spend some time with a friend last Sunday, who I do not get to see as often as I would like. For both of us, life in our mid 30’s has become a whirlwind that we just try to manage the best we can without it pulling us below the surface. After we got some delicious Pho and saw a movie, we ended up talking about this conundrum of friendship that women in our season of life are experiencing in countless communities, but that no one necessarily prepared us for.

Life is a beautiful, chaotic mess and the amount of time we have in each day remains the same. Whether you’re 10 years old, in high school, in your 20’s, or in full-blown adulthood; you still only have 24 hours in each day. Even at work where I see the same people for 8-9 hours a day, I still have work to do and can only take the time to invest in a very limited amount of those relationships. Life is just plain busy. I used to naively think that I wouldn’t ever feel this way, since I do not have a Type-A personality and I refuse to let my kid ever play seven sports at a time. Oh how wrong I was. As nice as it would be to even blame this on graduate school (although it does take up A LOT of my time), the fact remains that even after I am done with grad school, I will still have a lot of things vying to fill my time.

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Once you reach a certain season of life, you have choices to make with how you spend your time. Your choices become your priority and you can’t prioritize everything. If you want to be a good friend to a lot of people, you can’t climb the ladder as quickly or ambitiously at work or spend as much time with your family. If you want to be the top executive at your company or the world’s best parent, time with your friends will inevitably take a hit. The American dream that says you can have it all is misleading. You can have the things you choose to prioritize, but you certainly cannot have it all – at least not with any depth or quality.

I am so thankful to have friends in the same season of life I am in who understand that I may take 5 days to respond to their text message (or not at all, but they know I read it and am thinking about them! I appreciate those who I may only see once every 3 months, even though we do not live that far from each other and the time we spend together is still precious and meaningful. I appreciate it when I am not held to silly, shallow obligations like Facebook birthday timeline shout outs or the pressure to increase the quantity of communications or time spent together in order to prove that I cherish a relationship.

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These things just aren’t always possible. Sometimes I’ll have a really crappy day at work and when I come home all I want to do is sit in front of my TV with a drink and not talk to anyone. Sometimes, I have had to be away doing homework for days on end, so all I want to do is spend the day with Travis and give Chad a break. Sometimes, it’s been weeks since Chad and I have had a conversations that did not revolve around schedules, to-do’s, or logistics and we just need to have fun together. There is always something to clean, some house project left unfinished, some book I have been meaning to pick up and escape into, or some show I have been meaning to catch up on.

I have certainly had to adapt. My personality has always been bent towards being a “best friend” kind of friend verses a “many friends” kind of friend. Do I miss the days when I could see and talk to my friends as much as I wanted with no sacrifices made anywhere else (aka anytime before I was 25)? Of course! Without friendship and deep connection, I am a wreck. Quality time is and always will be incredibly important to me!

We just have to choose those times now. Schedule them. Prioritize. De-clutter. It’s both taxing and freeing, saddening and life-bringing at the same time. That quick message to a friend becomes a source of joy. That lunch we were able to fit in, becomes an anchor. That conversation in a parking lot late on a Sunday night becomes a breath of fresh air. That trip to see a long-distance friend becomes revitalizing.

This is just life and it is normal and it is fine.

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Adult Friendships: Better than Waffles?

Many of us spend a significant amount of our younger adult lives overcoming our childhood for a variety of reasons, while a smaller percentage must continue to strive to feel well-rounded, put together, and somewhat whole well past our 30’s. It’s sometimes difficult for those in that smaller percentage to even feel like you’re really an adult despite the number of candles on your cake when you have those moments, those days, or even sometimes those weeks where you feel small, insecure, and insignificant. Honestly, I often wonder if any adults ever really feel whole or grown up. There are some that certainly seem like it and I admire them immensely….but does everyone get these moments where they just can’t seem to figure out their role or their place in a world of people that seem to be thriving?

I have my moments certainly where I do some amazing rockstar things and feel unstoppable. Those times where I just can’t help but smiling when I think back on them because for those moments I used my God-given strengths to shine and it felt amazing. I hate that those moments feel unbalanced on the scale against the weight of doubt. Am I making the right choices in this season of my life? Am I where I am supposed to be or did I take a wrong turn somewhere? What more could I be doing that I am not doing? Do the people who seem to care about me really, genuinely care or do they just need something from me?

That last one especially plagues me.

It’s hard to be the one who chooses to be open when it’s so ridiculously hard to remain open. Safety is in closing off. Remaining guarded. Keeping a safe distance. Weighing risks. Approaching slowly. To choose to open yourself up to someone is to willing subject yourself to the highly likely risk of hurt or rejection.

I had a thought this week that sometimes my struggle seems to result from feeling like I oscillate between being a Leslie Knope and an April Ludgate (Park and Rec show for those of you who don’t know. Stop reading this and go watch it! It’s incredible).

Aside from our shared love for breakfast foods, Leslie Knope is the epitome of confidence in action, being an inspiration, and being an amazing friend.

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The thing is….Leslie is the friend everyone wants, but also the friend no one knows how to be or how to let in. She is unashamedly passionate about her friends and doesn’t hold back how she feels.

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I 100% agree with her philosophy on friendship and yet she is the mirage of friendship – completely fictional! Friendships don’t really work this way do they? (especially in our 30’s and beyond, amiright?) For me, being that open comes at a very high price. I have taken this gamble before and lost big time, which makes it exponentially harder the next time to get up the nerve to take that risk again.

Which is what brings out my inner April Ludgate.

April despises small talk, all things unauthentic, and prefers animals over people.

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She shys away – like we all so often do – from genuine intimacy. It makes her feel uncomfortable so she closes herself off. The thing we – and I – want (genuine connection) makes us uncomfortable because I think we either question if it’s truly genuine or because we’re weighing the amount of effort and risk it may require to form the connection.

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I will be honest… The combination of past wounds and a few gasoline-drenched, burned bridges have left me wondering if the effort and risk it takes to form long-lasting genuine connections with people is even worth it. It doesn’t help at all when you remove forced social situations like high school, college, and other venues where friendships are easily forged. The older we get the harder making genuine connections with people becomes; it honestly becomes awkward and makes me feel awkward. Isn’t there a happy middle place out there between the unattainable friendship bar Leslie Knope sets and the people-hating, closed off persona of April Ludgate? Or am I the only one that can’t seem to find that middle ground?

Whatever the answer, I am thankful for the genuine connections I have been lucky to find and the depth of friendships that have come out of those connections. When forming new connections, I will continue to feel awkward and insecure as I approach the risk the openness required for those connections necessitates…. But I can handle a little insecurity, a whole lot of awkwardness, and even some hurt if it means that there’s a chance that those connections can begin to form with the people who are worth it….

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