Maybe the Girl Scouts had it right. Sometimes you need to find a new tribe.
“Make new friends and keep the old. One is silver and the other gold!”Some Girl Scout somewhere
I remember singing these lyrics half-heartedly in my few months as a Girl Scout. When this TomBoy was forced to wear my patch-bedazzled vest to school for “National Girl Scout Day,” that venture abruptly came to a close…but that’s beside the point.
The point is we don’t usually stay friends with the people we grew up with forever.
It’s sad. It’s hard. But it’s the world we live in.
Why Old Tribes Change
My grandparents have always lived in the same town. My parents moved twelve hours away when my brother and I were in elementary school. I moved sixteen hours away for college and, as a married couple, we’ve already moved three times.
Moving away from the friends you grew up or went to college with has become the new normal. And sometimes when you do reunite, it’s hard to start back up again – as in, “I haven’t seen you in five years…how’s life?” :/
The girls I grew up with in high school are amazing. Many of us were in the same clubs, involved at the same church, and even in the same Bible study. We spent all of our free time together and it felt there was very little that we didn’t have in common.
But then, college. In college, some of us converted to a different denomination. Some took breaks from their faith. We met boys. We had traumatic experiences. We came out the other side changed.
Not Everyone Is At the Same Chapter
I was the first to have a baby in our high school group and, while another friend joined me within the month, it felt like becoming a parent made me less accessible. I was also the first from our group to stay-at-home with my kids.
These two differences made it feel I had less to talk about with my friends crushing it at work. The different chapter I was at made me miss the days we connected on everything.
Friendship Changing Is Hard
When friendships change, sometimes hanging out feels forced, words are misunderstood, and keeping in touch feels like an effort.
Being different people makes it harder to relate, feel natural, and laugh like you once did. And, sometimes, that hurts like the worst kind of breakup.
It’s painful to accept you may never be what you were before. The questions – “What if I hadn’t said that?, What if I would’ve been there?, What if I would’ve called more?” – never stop.
How & Why to Make New Friends
Even after I moved back to my college town, I expected old college friendships to take up where we left off. But it felt different. We had kids, they got involved, and thus the invites to hangout started to decline.
The spontaneity of our friendship vanished and it was sad having to schedule hangouts two weeks in advance around dance recitals and school programs.
Why Moving Was My Saving Grace
It wasn’t until we moved to a new part of town, new Church, and my kids started school that I began to see the joy in new friendships, rather than missing old ones, was good for my heart. Here’s what helped me do it:
Get involved with what you enjoy – If you like to workout, join a class. If you like to serve, sign up for a mission trip. If you like soccer, join a young adult team.
Meet people in your new spheres – Has your kid just started school? Have you just moved? Did you just start a new job? This is your new tribe. Take advantage of that.
If you want to meet more neighbors, sit in your driveway while your kids play. If you want to meet other school parents, volunteer for school events. If you want to meet more people at Church, start or join a Bible study.
Keep showing up until it feels natural – At first, it’s always awkward. In time, though, you find what you have in common and more ways to connect. In time, it gets easier when you keep showing up.
Finding a new tribe helps you remember you’re still cool, even if old friendships have changed.
How & Why To Keep Old Friends
Still, some friendships are worth fighting for. My high school group will ALWAYS have my heart. Sure, being spread out across the country and starting our families makes our friendship look different. Sure, there are certain disagreements or different perspectives. But these are my people.
These are the girls that flew up to visit me when I was in the ICU. These are the girls that drove to see me with a collaged poster of high school memories when I was in hospital. These are the girls that were in my wedding. These are the girls that showed up at the hospital with a puke bucket when my body said, “No, no, no” to pain meds.
No matter how much we have changed as people, these are the girls that will always have my heart. And that’s worth fighting for.
That’s worth texting, “I’m thinking about you today.”. That’s worth trying to set up yearly reunions, even if only a few of you can make it. That’s worth driving eight hours to visit after a baby is born. That’s worth keeping a Google Hangout thread for 15 years to check in every now-and-then.
It may not look exactly like it did, but friendships that have stood the test of time are true gold.
Don’t be afraid of finding new tribes and don’t ever tire of fighting for old ones.