“I have no friends in London.”
That’s this weird phrase that I say to myself sometimes. Usually, I say it after a couple of solitary days organizing my book collection by color and giving away clothes that I bought three months ago so that I can continue fitting clothes that I bought three years ago into my closet.
It’s weird to reflect on how often I can feel like I have no friends in London when I know that my life is as full and as planned-out as a high school valedictorian’s — school, playtime, yoga, sport, chanting. I don’t have many solitary days and when I am out and about, I am thoroughly enjoying every bit of my life. I laugh and giggle often; I get a good dose of partying, exercise, and academic pleasure. So why then — if I have so many plans and so much to do — could I at any point feel friendless?
When I say that I have no friends in London, what I more or less mean is that I make no plans with any of my friends in London.
When we were kids, it wasn’t difficult to make plans with our friends. Why? Because they were our classmates and the children of our parent’s friends and the people we played sports with and the kids at our bus stop. We saw them every day and so every day was time with our friends. The extra special occasion when we got to see them outside of school/sport/bus stop was holy and — since we weren’t in control of our lives — restricted.
Now, who are my friends? I tend to classify people as friends if I’ve known them for a while and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time getting to know them. They’re usually people I identify strongly with. Usually, I got to know them through something like school or work, but over time, that connection was severed and now our connection is us.
Here’s the tricky part: typically, they work more than thirty minutes from me using any form of public transportation, they get out of work 2 hours before or after me, live with their significant other in some far away neighborhood and work out three nights a week. Generally, it is impossible to hang out with them.
In fact, making plans with my friends in London is harder than making plans with my friends who live in Oxford or Zurich. It usually takes weeks of disorganized messaging, resulting in some loose plan after work somewhere central for drinks three to four weeks in the future. The plans usually get canceled at least twice and, eventually, rescheduled so many times that both people forget and nothing ever happens.
If my friends in London were my only friends in London, I would really be friendless.
I’m not though. Who am I spending all of my time with? When I think for a moment, I realize I spend time with the same sorts of people that I used to spend time with as a child. I still play sports and spend time with people there. Instead of spending time with my classmates, I now spend time with my colleagues. (Unfortunately, I can’t say that I spend time with people at the bus stop or the children of my parent’s friends.)
However, instead of still viewing every day as time with my friends, I now categorize time with my friends as specific, planned time that is usually very difficult to organize with people that I would never naturally see.
I think this is because, as adults, we don’t let go of the really good friends we make throughout our lives and so we begin to see people who are not already on this Olympic level as something else — not yet friends — and therefore can’t see that our life is full of budding and real friendships. We begin to hold our friendships holy and, because of this, the word friend takes on a whole new, much more significant meaning — so significant that it becomes impossible to spend time with our friends.
I have heard a lot of my friends say that it’s hard to make friends as adults. They give me reasons like the tiny devil in your brain, or new priorities like family and work. But I sort of feel like we’re thinking about friendships all wrong, and that the tiny devil in our brain — the awkwardness we feel around new people — is there because we have such high standards as adults. We forget what it’s like to not know someone — to be new friends with someone and sometimes have to think about what we are going to say to this new person we want to impress.
I actually think that we have just as easy a time making friends as adults as we did when we were children — we’re just categorising people wrong. Seeing this has opened my eyes to how much fun I actually have at work and doing extracurricular things. I couldn’t see it before, but my colleagues are actually probably my closest friends in London. They’re who I buy my cryptocurrency with and who I tell my jokes to first. But since hanging out with them requires no plans and is completely effortless, it didn’t seem possible that I could be spending time with friends. I’m happy to know that, just like in childhood, every adult day is time with my friends.