Find Your Tribe

I made a new friend recently. And I’m middle-aged! For some reason it’s so much harder as a grown up to form new relationships like this. We’re too busy, mainly, but probably also a bit too lazy and stuck in our ways. And there’s the potential for humiliating rejections that feel so much worse than simply being left to last during the school sports team selection, or left leaning against the wall at a disco while everyone else pairs up (although let’s be honest, those things did hurt our tiny addled hearts).

This new buddy came along all thanks to our new yellow door. Regular readers may remember that last year we wanted to freshen up our old white (or not-so-white) PVC front door and took the plunge and painted it yellow. I say yellow but I mean, really, really yellow. “It’s different,” according to our neighbour, Elaine, from down the road. And since our little terraced house opens onto the pavement this means that many passersby get to admire it as they go about their day (it is, after all, impossible to ignore).

So one fine August day I happened to be sorting out the recycling (as you do) and someone said hello. Usually the conversation ends here (or doesn’t even start, we’re not all that friendly around here) but this time the smiling new neighbour, just moved in around the corner, said how much she loved the yellow door, that it always cheered her up and she had always wondered if someone creative lived here. There followed a great blather about art, writing and the amusing nuances of our local community. It was great. There was a moment when things clicked – aren’t those moments precious? And I’m happy to say that we’ve since met up for coffee, talked and talked (and discovered even more similarities). Nina has even become one of our trusted cat-sitters. And all because of a yellow door. 

But it’s also because of Nina’s courage to suggest we meet and find out more about each other. It so easily could have become just a one-off fun interaction. But when you find a member of your tribe – you know the ones, they make you laugh, they share your world views, they like what you like – you want to be around them. There’s that ‘click’ again. 

So if you connect with someone, be brave and arrange to see them and foster that relationship. It may not work out (hence the bravery) but it’s so worth stepping forward and asking ‘do you fancy a coffee some time?’ In other words, ‘will you be my friend?’ Life can be lonely and isolating, but there are others out there who can be your fellow travellers through life. You might even find you’re peas in a pod. And who wouldn’t want to be that?

Me and my mates

Friends Forever

Friendship bracelets. Nothing like them.

I re-connected with an old friend recently. Stephanie and I were inseparable at college, sharing essay deadlines, ‘early’ lectures (at 10am, I know) and the particular skill involved in making a student grant stretch each term. We ate a lot of sausages and noodles, and wore all our clothes at once rather than put the heat on. We even shared a tiny room in a truly terrible rented flat (the kitchen ankle-deep in water most days, the decor a mix of sixties floral and seventies beige). Happy days. And now twenty five years have passed and here we are sitting in the garden.

As an adult it’s hard to make friends, yet close friendships are consistently linked to better physical and mental health. Asking the question “will you be my friend?” is fraught with potential humiliation and rejection, so we wait and see, hoping that closeness will happen of its own accord. Maybe we need to be a bit braver and take steps to move from acquaintance to friend.

Female friendships are especially strong. There’s nothing like the close bond that forms when we share secrets, giggle at the same jokes and run to each other at the drop of a hat when life hurts. Katy allowed me to lean on her (literally at one point) during my brother’s funeral. Sally frequently delivers little thoughtful gifts. Cara makes me laugh with her potty-mouthed stories. Julie writes me letters. 

And as the blessings are many so, too, is the pain when a friendship ends. There’s really nothing like the loss of a deep connection. Love affairs end in heartbreak and we find sympathy in the telling; friendships end and we have nowhere to go with the grief. Self-criticism and a sharp loss fill our minds as we wonder what happened. And then technology allows for ‘ghosting’ until it slowly dawns that it’s over.

I still miss my best friend. We were opposites but the connection was instant. She moved back to England after fifteen years and following a silly argument about birthdays we simply lost touch. I sent messages and cards and then had to accept that she was no longer in my life. 

Friends are friends forever. It’s just that sometimes they shift and change as life moves on. I’ve reconnected with an old friend, found some new ones and so it goes.

Where would we be without them? Friends are silver and gold. Treasure them.