Reflecting on her personal experience, the columnist shares her opinion on why friendships dwindle with age, and how they are formed differently across age.
During kindergarten recess, R’s packet of crisps fell on the ground. She started crying. When M noticed how upset R was, she offered to share her own crisps if only R would stop crying. This simple act from M towards R set them as the best of friends for the next 32 years.
I smile every time I remember the sweetness of that incident. It is amusing how when we are young, all it takes is one incident that involves a shared snack or toy to ignite the “BFF” (best friends forever) relationship. But, as we grow older, it is no longer as easy to make or keep friends.
Upon reflection, I observed this trend of ‘dwindling friendships’ over time. As a child, I befriended everyone. During my teens, there was a bigger emphasis on BFFs, and after that, the big boom in my social life came in my 20’s, where I was barely keeping up with invites from my friends.
Now in my mid-thirties, that number dwindled further, even though my personality has remained social. So often have I swapped numbers with people with a promise of staying in touch but those words rarely materialize.
So, what happened after I hit 30?
Exactly what has happened to many others: I now have fewer close friends yet my acquaintances are a bucket-full.
There are many reasons for this, the most obvious being a shift in our priorities. Our schedules have become more compressed with responsibilities that our friendships were the first to take a hit. They have gone down the hierarchy of relationships. In my case, I realized I had even marginalized them according to the situation: childhood friends, university friends, and work colleagues. Many switched status from friend to acquaintance.
I believe we have also become picky with friendships as we grew older. In everyone’s life journey, we were indiscriminate in making friends as we needed them to ‘discover’ ourselves. However, by our 30’s we have more or less figured out who we are, have gained confidence and no longer need others to walk with us and ‘hold our hands’.
By our 30’s we also are wiser and more experienced in the nooks and crannies of human relationships. We know they are like a two-way street and much effort must be put into them otherwise, they will fall apart. We are better able to figure out who is genuine and who has ulterior motives. This is why, since friendships are chosen and not an obligation like family, we are careful which friendships to invest in and we tend to stick to those who share similar values as us. Another important factor is the societal status of the friends we choose and how similar they are to us.
In the end, taking all the above into consideration, I wonder if R and M’s friendship will last a lifetime? I mean: is the idea of a lifelong friendship even realistic or have lifelong friendships died in the 90’s along with VHS tapes?