Keeping Strong Friendships (in a Pandemic)
The topic of friendships is an interesting one. Especially for me. Unlike many people, I have always had to somewhat justify my ability to make friends. Not because I was quiet or because we moved a lot. But because I homeschooled from grade one all the way to grade eleven. When you homeschool and you meet someone who is unfamiliar with homeschooling, the number one question was never, “Are you being challenged academically?” or “What does your curriculum look like?” Instead, the number one question I was asked for nearly a decade was “How do you make friends?”
I got really good at answering this question – I always said, “Actually, it’s a lot easier than you might think.” I went on to talk about how my parents always encouraged extra curricular activities like sports and music lessons where we made strong friendships and explained that my sisters and I spent lots of time together. I would also share that because I wasn’t exclusively spending time with children my exact age, I often made friends of all ages.
Not that I had a perfect friend system by any means, like any kid growing up, I had my share of bad friendships, good friendships, and the friendships where you were babies together, so you’ll just always be friends by default. Some years were tougher, like middle school when I had several tough friendships that ended with lessons learned. And some years were easier, like when all my friends were dating one other and we would all have beach fires and house parties together.
The landscape of friendships change A LOT over time. And in the past few years, I have noticed my friendships shift. We don’t see each other all the time, often when we do it serves as a “catching up session” to share the updates of our daily lives. Friendships start to depend more on shared interests or activities, like my friends I can workout with or the friends I can call for advice. Often the friendships that last, are the ones where we can pick up after weeks or even months and it’s as if nothing has changed.
But now everything has changed again. Now the nights dancing at the Duke have been replaced with calling up friends to check in on how social distancing is going. Getting tacos and walking through the city, catching up after months of not connecting has been replaced with catching up almost every week, with very little of our daily lives shifting. Instead of spending time sharing life updates, I have been talking with friends about how they are feeling about their lives. About their finances. About their jobs. About their gratitudes. Even about the recipes they are trying. When once a friendship revolved around sharing the latest developments in our lives. We now must consciously choose to reach out and connect over more than that.
Human’s are social creatures and we thrive when we feel connected to those around us. Connection definitely requires a bit more effort these days. A few of my favourite ways to be social (while still social distancing) include chatting with a friend on the phone while on a walk or cooking dinner. Offering to drop off groceries if I am doing my shopping as well. And having socially distanced picnics where we each bring our own blanket and food.
Overall, it’s amazing how much more I am checking in on friends now, when we can’t be together, than before, when we would connect only to share the latest updates in our own separate lives. I hope these are the lessons I take out of this pandemic. That I have amazing and supportive friends and family. That conversations and connection come from more than sharing the latest events in our lives. And to never again take for granted laughing so hard you reach out and grab your friend’s shoulder next to you for support.
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