My best friend, Jen Ownbey, and I have a hashtag. #1449MilesTooMany. It’s oddly specific, but that’s the distance between her front door and mine. She turned 40 this year. I’m currently 37. When we were younger, it was common knowledge (spread through funny quips in the land before memes) that we lose friends/have a harder time making friends as we age. Memes were created and spread the same common knowledge.
I left North Carolina in April 2014. My parents wanted to travel and I had the option to pack up me and my son and go too, or find a way to stay in Asheville. I don’t know if anyone out there has noticed the articles about Asheville, but that place is frickin’ expensive. I was subbing full time (which equals about 60 hours a week of work time) and making, at best, $800 a month. Like, that’s where I could tap out because it wasn’t an hourly rate but a daily rate. I was a long-term sub, so I filled vacant classrooms. I wrote curriculum, I graded papers at home, I did all the things a regular teacher would do. For $70 a day. Staying wasn’t really an option.
We found ourselves in California. A tiny little dot of a town called Hyampom in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It was beautiful and insulated in a way that meant making friends wasn’t so hard. It was also not a long term kind of place.
When we settled in Denver, I figured the whole friends thing would be easy. Big city, lots of things to do. I made friends at work. I did stuff outside of work. Then I switched jobs. The friends thing wasn’t as easy as it used to be. The memes and funny quips were right. Then the apocalypse happened. Before I’d actually really adjusted into my new place in life. Before I’d gotten some of those new relationships solidified.
I’ve found that, with the stress of the world at large, as well as the mess of personal issues that have found their way into my existence, the friend thing is tough. I was an extrovert until my brain surgeries made it so difficult to hear other people. It’s not that I can’t hear them at all, but the processing time for the sound is extreme enough that having conversations is hard.
However – and this was my point when I sat down to write today – I’ve grown to appreciate that quality is better than quantity. I’m lucky that, though there is a 1449 mile trip between us, my best friend is still my best friend. I’m lucky that I have Rebecca, another teacher at my school, who is a writer and who I have claimed as a little sister, in my life. I love that I’m part of a group of strong women. We call ourselves the Moms Writing Scary Shit, and even though I am super bad with communicating, they are always there if I need them as I am for them. I have a mommy friend, who has two daughters my son has adopted as sisters. It’s the first time I can remember having a friend who has a kid in the same age range as my own.
Friendship changes as we age. When I was younger, it was about going out and having fun and hanging out. It was about time spent together. Now, however, it’s about those moments where you see someone and feel connected. I see the mommy friend mostly at school during pick up or drop off and the occasional cup of coffee. I love those moments when we get to chat. I see Rebecca during class changes, but we have a running commentary on life in chat. I see Jen once (twice – if I’m lucky) a year, but I often get up early to talk to her while she’s driving to work, and if not then, on her lunch break.
The funny quips and memes were right. It is harder to make friends as we age, because life requires more out of us. But it doesn’t mean we’re friendless. No, I can’t drop everything and go for drinks or coffee or dancing. But the quality of the relationships is so much more fulfilling than if I could. I wish I’d known that when I was 20. I think it would have really helped my outlook during the apocalypse.