"I felt like I was falling, and I needed someone to catch me but you weren't there," one of my closest friends told me recently. The line still rings in my ears; another friend going through a rough time had said something similar.
Both times, I could only mumble that I'm sorry that things turned out this way. Of course, that is terribly insufficient. It breaks my heart to see loved ones hurting and struggling, and to not be able to catch them from falling. But I am wary of promising to do better. I'm not sure I can. Friends are wary of asking for more. They're not sure they can.
Adulting has made me confront my limits in heartbreaking ways. I feel like I've been given two mega energy coupons to redeem for work and my partner, and after that I only have small energy coupons for friends. But if the ask of friendship is to be there for each other *no matter what*, then small energy coupons won't do. I sometimes can choose to redeem a mega energy coupon, but only by taking it away from other things. If I do it too often, things start to fall apart.
Friendship then becomes: be there for each other, T&C apply. That's something my friends and I are struggling to navigate. It's crushing when you find out you've hit someone's capacity, or are slowly falling through the cracks. How do we understand the place of friendships in adult life, and how might we navigate it better?
Those of you who've read Roads and Relationships will know that this is running theme in my life. This story from 2015 helped me feel like I wasn't alone, and gave me some interesting insights about friendship in adulthood.
We aren’t obligated to our friends the way we are to our romantic partners, our jobs, and our families. We’ll be sad to go, but go we will. This is one of the inherent tensions of friendships, which Rawlins calls “the freedom to be independent and the freedom to be dependent.”
P.S. All thanks to Sanya for this recommendation.
More great writing on friendship:
- What Jacques Derrida Understood About Friendship, The New Yorker
- Friendships form via shared context, not shared activities, Bill Mei's Blog