Friendship is the one of the most underrated and least celebrated forms of relationships. Since millenials are notorious as the generation who are delaying marriage and only about a quarter of us are currently married, very often the closest relationships you'll have outside of your family in your twenties will be with a friend.
Numerous studies show that friendships play a huge role in promoting health and happiness and significantly increase the chances of recovery for those who have suffered a serious illness. One of the most valuable things a millennial can do is invest in strong and healthy friendships. Your older self, married or not, will thank you for it, as friendships can even strengthen marriages.
There is no distinguishable moment when one turns from acquaintance to friend, and unlike marriage or the birth of a child there is no ceremony or formal acknowledgment accompanying the beginnings of a new friendship. It is a humble, understated but truly valuable kind of relationship.
In many ways friendship is an organic and effortless process which can spring out of nowhere but like all great things it needs to be watered and nurtured to become even better and stronger.
I'm fortunate enough to enjoy close friendships with some of the most intelligent, kindest, creative, fun and all round incredible women. Some of my friends have known me from childhood or college, while some I met out here adulting.
There are a couple of things I'd have done differently in my 20s if I were to live them again, but one of the things I wont regret is the time I spent with friends. Here are 14 important things I learned about friendships in my 20s.
1. The memories may outlast the friendship.
This one is bittersweet. The average person will have 396 friendships in the duration of their life, but only 33 will last. For no discernible or easily identifiable reason, the once vibrant friendship you had may have just quietly withered and faded away. Neither of you will be able to put your finger on, or articulate what exactly killed the friendship. All you know is that things felt increasingly different, and you went from being close confidants, to total strangers connected only by what now seems like a remote past. People and situations can change but the treasured and happy memories don't have to.
2. Perfectionism is the enemy of friendships.
You'll learn one of the best ways to not get disillusioned with people is to not become "illusioned" in the first place. Don't place rigid or unattainable standards on people and then get disappointed when they "fail."
It's only human to make mistakes or even hurt those we love. We all mess up sometimes. You'll find the less critical and more forgiving you are with friends, the more tolerant you will be of your mistakes. Be kind with yourself and with your friends.
3. Your life will be enriched by the variety in your friendships.
There will be the ones you speak to about your dreams and ambitions, the one you discuss politics with, the ones you discuss the new MAC makeup line with, the friends you explore new cities and countries with, the ones you share your heartbreaks with, the ones you party with and the ones you go to first when you need a shoulder to cry on. You will learn to treasure each friendship as different as they are.
4. Some friendships are imbalanced.
We're all friends with "that girl" with the turbulent lifestyle. She bounces from one drama to the next. You've lost count of the times you've mopped up her tears, slashed a guy's tire for her or binged on Netflix and ice cream to help her out after another calamity has ensued. This person is sincerely grateful to you for all the times you've cleaned up the aftermath of their crappy decisions. Of course, popular friendship advice may tell you this is a toxic friend that you must dispose of.
However, as long as you are practicing self-care and not losing yourself or your own sanity in their chaos there is no reason why this friendship can't continue and grow. And who knows? Life can change in an instant. Maybe one day they'll be the ones picking you up off the floor.
5. Their happiness is your happiness.
If my friends are winning, then I am too. I cry at all my friends' weddings, I bond with and love their kids as if they were somehow related to me, and I boast about all their incredible life and career accomplishments like a proud mother. And when setbacks hit their lives I too experience worry, sadness and anxiety. This is not surprising since scientific research shows that the human brain is hardwired to show empathy to people the closer they are to us.
6. Heartbreak isn't just for romantic relationships.
You will have at least one nasty friendship fall out, or get stabbed in the back by someone who you thought was a genuine friend and it will hurt. A lot. You'll wonder why the movies and books warned you about heartbreak in the context of romantic relationships, but not friendship. But like all heartbreak, time is a healer and you will dust yourself off, forgive them, and yourself for not seeing the signs, and move on.
7. You may strip the title of friend from someone, but you will always care about them from a distance.
They're polluting the air around you, and you need to eject them from your life so you can breathe again. They are low-key jealous of you, make imperceptibly rude or hurtful comments about you, and never celebrate your achievements. In most cases this stems from their own sense of dissatisfaction at life.
While you do sympathize and will always care about them, you know they need to go. Whilst true friends are good for your health, research also shows that frenemies who you have conflicted feelings for are more likely to raise your blood pressure and stress levels than a straight out enemy would.
8. Friendship can spring up when you least expect it.
Friendships are birthed in the least likely of places. Having spent my 20s living in about seven cities on three different continents, I'm used to making friendships wherever they may find me. Here are some of the places I have met some of my closest friends: a hair braiding salon in Seoul, a museum in LA and a plane ride to Bangkok. You really never know where your next friendship will come from.
9. Less is definitely more.
As the pressures of life continue and your responsibilities and commitments grow, you barely have enough time to catch up with your current circle of friends, let alone add to it. The number of your friendships may decrease, but the overall quality of them will skyrocket. Although you remain open to making friendships, you don't really go looking for them in the way you may have at school or college. It's better to have a handful of close friendships than a huge bunch of superficial ones.
10. You may hardly see some of your closest friends.
Due to my nomadic lifestyle, I've lived in a different city from most of my close friends for all of my adult life. Many of them don't even live in the same country or continent as me. Several months or even years can go by before I catch up with them in person. But when I do, we're just close as ever, and our encounters as intermittent as they may be are filled with laughter and love.
11. You will learn to communicate just with looks.
When you need help getting away from a gross guy in a bar, or when you think that her butt does look flat in that dress she is trying on, you don't even have to open your mouth. A look that only she will be able to interpret, is quite enough.
12. Some friends become family.
The older I get, the more I forget I don't actually have any sisters. I've been blessed with an abundance of girlfriends who are closer to me than many sisters are. They are amazing, beautiful women who have enriched my life and made me a far more self-aware, understanding and thoughtful person. They've seen me through my highs and lows and through it all, they're still there.
13. You will outgrow friendships.
There was a time when my life was about catching up on the latest gossip in our social circle, or attending the best nightclubs and parties.
As my personality became more reflective, and issues that deep down I'd always cared about started to rise to the surface, certain friendships that were dependent entirely on superficial interests began to disintegrate. We no longer had anything to talk about or common interests to pursue together. We didn't even find the same things made us laugh so our funny stories fell flat on each other's ears. And that's fine. You can't take everyone on your journey, and they yours. When it comes to a point and the road forks, you may choose separate ways. It's nothing to be sad about. As Dr. Seuss says, “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
14. Some friendships are only for a brief season.
Maybe your friendship was developed during a tough situation, and it will almost seem an angel jettisoned in to help you, and now they've left just as suddenly as they came after helping you through it all. Or perhaps they somersaulted into your life just to to sow seeds of discord and conflict but either way, you've learnt an invaluable life lesson from it. No matter how the story went, it's not a failed friendship. It was a friendship for a reason.
No matter where you go or what you do, the ones who are meant to be in your life will always find a way back in. And these are my favorite type of friendships. The ones that are meant to be. To the friends of my past, my future but most of all to the ones in the present, thank you for being the amazing and awesome people you are and for being the best company in this journey called life.