Friendships are the greatest love stories of our lives
We are family even more so now than in our early twenties
The summer my boyfriend died, my best friend Anna Codrea-Rado bought me an empty notebook and wrote on the front page: ‘Never underestimate the power of the pen.’ I wrote those words back to her on the front of the DJ booth at her twenty-first birthday party at a working man’s club in Durham.
Although it’d take me over ten years before I wrote anything, those words always served as a secret code between us from a time when Anna had been the best friend a friend could be when I was in the darkest depths of grief. I don’t know if I’d still be here if it wasn’t for the friendship of her and some of the other friends I’ve had in my life over the years.
Friendships are the greatest love stories of our lives and yet there’s an expectation in society that friendships should be deprioritised as we get older. I’m finding the opposite to be true, as my friendships are becoming more important to me as I age and so, I wanted to talk to Anna about our friendship.
Anna and I co-host a podcast together and people often comment on how they can hear how strong our friendship is. The below conversation reveals our secret sauce because there are some seemingly radical ideas in there: What does it look like if we prioritise our friendships like we do our couple relationships and what does a friendship look like when you act like a team when navigating different life choices?
This conversation made me feel better about the growing pains and evolving nature of friendships. Friendships are so fundamental to the quality of our lives and yet are so often overlooked and maybe it doesn’t need to be that way…
Tiffany: Why is our friendship so good?
Anna: I think it's because we just get each other and there is that unspoken, intangible something that I can't quite put my finger on that I can only describe as us being on the same wavelength. I think we've very much grown together.
I don't have siblings, so I don't know what a sibling relationship is like, but I have a familial feeling, where I just know that you'll always be there.
What does friendship mean to you?
It comes down to a feeling of safety and security. There is an understanding that I'm able to show my inner self, and that I can be vulnerable and open myself up and it's safe to do so.
I see friendship as a partnership in a team way, where there are two of you in it, and it's about figuring stuff out together and growing together.
Greta Gerwig said: “In college and right after college, there’s this sense that your friends are your family,” Gerwig says. “It’s really painful in your late twenties when you realize that they’re not your family, and they’re going to make their own families.” Why do you think people increasingly struggle with friendships as we get older?
I do believe in the chosen family and friendships can be a form of family, My friendship groups have been closing in, but where they've closed in they've become a lot stronger so I would say, for example, our friendship. I feel that we are family even more so now than I did in our early twenties.
While other people are quite literally making their own families right now and that does come with its own growth pains and realizing that you're not in their bubble. That's okay to me because I think that I'm also growing my bubble and that includes friends, so I'm developing my own family, both in terms of a partner, but also my chosen family friends as well.
I think people struggle with friendships as we get older because our friends are our mirrors. There may be a stage in their life that is something that you know you want, so for example, if you’re longing for a family and your friends have gone off and started their own families, then that's painful to watch. The same is true for any other kind of achievements or milestone, when you see your friends achieving things that you want it can be quite difficult.
But I think also the reality is that as we get older, there is just isn’t room in our lives for as many friends as we had in our early twenties and I think it's okay that your friendship dynamics change.
When I was young and my parents took me to gatherings with their friends, I remember looking at these people in their mid-30s and just thinking how grown up they looked and I assumed that these adults must have everything sorted in their friendships and that everyone must always be nice to each other and everything must be fine and there must be no drama, when that's absolutely not true. So you grow up and you realize that there’s no end or destination with friendships and we never reach a point where we have perfect friendships.
The reality is is that as you get older you just have to accept people as they come, and you will have imperfect friendships and you have to just accept that. So, I think some people do struggle with that and they want their friends to be quite constant and be reliable at both in the sense of, you know, knowing that they can count on them but also reliable in the sense that they don't want necessarily want to change and grow. I think that's another part of this that's quite painful as you know we're all in our early twenties and we're all sort of like partying and doing the same thing and then people grow in different directions and it's quite difficult to grapple with that.
Has lockdown made you think differently about friendship?
The world has quite literally fallen apart right now, and it is now our job to rebuild this world and make it better and make it safer and make it the place that it should be. That's a very big task, and so it's about how do I want to spend my energy.
I'm reassessing my values and asking what kind of conversations do I want to be having and who do I want to surround myself with and how much time do I have to devote to my friendships. I don't have any definite answers yet but it's just part of a much bigger reckoning moment
Increasingly, as a single lady in my thirties, my life is looking different from my friends. Let’s take you —you’re in a long-term relationship with your two dogs and you’re moving to the ‘burbs (sob) and so soon you won’t be living walking distance from me. What advice do you have for friends navigating different life choices as we get older?
One of the conversations that my partner and I have had about the location is that it’s important to me to be accessible to you and to be able to get you easily.
When you write it out like that on paper that ‘I'm in a long term relationship with my two dogs and then moving to the burbs,’ that's one way to look at it. The other way is: I'm in a relationship with someone who understands the role you play in my life in a way that none of my previous partners have, and has always allowed space for my friendship with you. And, yes I’m moving to the burbs but very much to a place that is still easy for us to get to each other.
I think it's very easy to be like: ‘Oh, well I lost touch with so and so because they had a baby.’ No, the reality is, we lost touch because our friendship didn't run on the level that was deep enough to carry us through these big life choices.
If you value friendship or certain friendships where you feel like they're your chosen family, you do have to take them into account in your life choices. I wouldn't permanently move somewhere that was really really far away and not accessible to the people that I actually want to hang out with.
And why aren't couples talking amongst each other and deciding to move to the same place together? There is something in all of this about how we don't put friendship on the same pedestal as we do relationships, and I think that needs to change.
But it is tricky but ultimately you and I are able to have conversations about our life choices in an open way and that's testament to the strength of our friendship.
I guess you just have to feel like you're both in it together, so if you use the example of how do you navigate when one friend has a baby and another one doesn't and that tension. Both have to give and it can't just be ‘oh the person without the baby has to make all the concessions’ —no you both have to give something, you both have to find a way to evolve your friendship into a place where you're both comfortable and happy with it.
Do you have a favourite anecdote from our friendship?
I have just so many memories of sitting outside of either clubs or at festivals around a fire and just having deep and meaningful conversations which is funny because I think we do that a lot now but we just do them sober and over Whatsapp voice messages.
And also I think more recent stuff, like interviewing Gretchen Rubin for the podcast or finding out that she agreed to do it and those kinds of moments where we're relishing in a joint accomplishment together.