If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that there’s a whole host of things that I need out of my friendships in my early to mid-twenties. Unfortunately, a lot of that was learned through trial and error. I had to go through a lot of sh*t with people to see what I want (and deserve) from the people I surround myself with.
If there’s one thing I learned about friendships over the years it’s that they change. You can’t expect them to be what they once were. They won’t remain stagnant while life zooms by all around you.
Whether your friendship started when you were kids or when you were in college, the life experiences of both parties & the sh*t you go through skew the relationship, pulling you together or pushing you apart. You either grow apart or you grow together; sometimes it’s one person taking the lead. Neither one is a bad thing, necessarily, but it’s important to see & realize.
Friendships in your 20’s are hard. LIFE in your 20’s is hard. We’re all going through it. It’s rough out here! Right?! Like, damn. I wish I was warned.
Whether you’re just graduating college, starting your second job, quitting your first job, didn’t go to college at all, are just moving out of your parents’ house, just got dumped by the love of your life, the love of your life doesn’t know you exist—whatever. We’re all in this trippy middle ground, limbo area. The space between being a kid and “figuring it all out” (HA, as if we ever will). It’s hard for friendships to make it through that weird time. It takes work. It takes a mutual appreciation and respect. It takes love. And it takes selflessness. It doesn’t take magic, but it takes the damn work. Without that, I’m not sure a friendship can or will survive it. I’ve seen it and experienced it myself. Friendships can easily fall apart, but sometimes you also need to let go of friendships that do nothing but hold you back. That’s something you can’t be afraid to do either.
There are a few things, I’d argue, that friendships should have in your 20s. These are the important relationships you’re going to want to hold onto to see you through adulthood and through some potentially huge events in your life, so the criteria should be just as important.
In your 20s, you need people who “get” you
There are people that I’ve met just a few months ago that know more about me than friends I had for over a decade. Real talk. These people have taken the time to know me, understand me, to GET me and love me despite my flaws and quirks. And Lord knows I have a lot.
With all of the changes you’re going through in your 20s, it’s comforting to have people who know where you come from, who know your heart, know what makes you tick (and even what pisses you off).
These are the people who can impersonate you at the drop of a hat when you’re being ridiculous or if you need a laugh. For me, they’re my friends who know I’m rolling my eyes at them through the phone. Or the ones that will know my reaction to something big happening in my life will start with an excited declaration of “GUYS!” every single time. They know your catchphrases. They know your schedule better than you do. They know what you need maybe before you even realize it. Hell, these are the people that know if you’re gonna be down for sushi or tacos depending on your mood. It’s about these little things, sure, but it’s also about the big things. It’s important for us to feel understood in our 20s because, to be honest, we don’t quite understand ourselves.
In your 20s, you need people who will comfort you
(even when you don’t want it)
Like I said, and will continue to say many times until I’m 30 and complaining about another decade, your 20s are HARD. They’re super formative and amazing and fun, but also really f*cking challenging. You’re going through a lot of changes in your life and sometimes it all comes crashing down around you–in spurts or all at once. You need people who you can commiserate with, people you can lean on, people who get it, and people who are just there for you.
I’ve made it a point to only keep people in my life that I know will be there for me without question if something bad were to go down. The people in my life are the ones I can call and say “I need you” and they’ll be there. No questions asked, no hesitation. They’re the ones who will stay on the phone with me for over an hour as I compose and send a risky text and wait with me for the response as I’m freaking out. Or the ones that I can text to complain about the dumb things that happen throughout my day. Or the ones I can call up and say “are you home?” and lay on their couch and cry it out. I’m not a hugger, but they’re the one’s that will hug me anyway when I need it. I’m lucky that I have found the ones that will say f*ck that guy and go out for margaritas and ice cream with me on a Sunday night. You should find yours.
In your 20s, you need people you can talk to about the serious things
I’m aware that not everyone in the world is as introspective as me, but I’ve found that your 20s is kind of filled with a lot of soul searching. I find myself questioning what I’m supposed to be doing, where I’m going to end up and what life is all about more often than not. It’s been a hell of a lot easier to talk to people in my life who are struggling with the same thing, can commiserate, but also help me see the light. There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with people who you can have intelligent and thought-provoking conversations with. You might not agree with everything they say, but they’ll challenge you and give you new perspectives you might not have considered.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re in our 20s and you want to surround yourself with people you can totally goof off with and get wasted around, too–whatever floats your boat, really. But to me, it’s really heartwarming to be able to have people you can bounce your big ideas off of—your life goals, your questions about life and love and the world and the Universe and what this all means. It makes the great big world out there, and the dreaded 20s, not seem so bad.
In your 20s, you need people who will cheer you on
I’ve found that having people that support you and cheer you on means more than just a friend who gives you a bottle of champagne to pop when you accomplish something. It’s more than just the celebrating—but trust, that’s important too. Honor yourself and pop that champagne. But it’s the friends who push you towards your ambitions. The ones who ask you about your goals. The ones who check in to see the progress you’ve made. How was that job interview you had a few weeks ago, I never checked in about that? I know work was busy this week, did everything go well? What ever happened to looking into getting your MBA, do you think you’re going to go for it?
It’s important to have these healthy and balanced relationships. Never one person needing the praise more than the other. It shouldn’t be as calculated or thought out. Just be proud of your dang friends. Sounds like a simple concept, sure. But you’d be surprised just how confusing this seems to be to people out there.
In your 20s, you need people who will check in
Relatedly, it’s important to stay in touch with friends in your 20s. It’s way too easy to let friendships go by the wayside with all the craziness and transition going on in our lives. Whether it takes making a physical note to check in on the friends who you need to, or making it a routine to call certain friends in the car or on certain days of the week. A text or a phone call goes a long way. It’s hard, but you need those people in your life and sometimes you just need a reminder when life gets out of hand. I’m guilty of letting life make me a little selfish. We all are. But I’ve made it a point to check in with friends who I don’t see all of the time every few days or weeks and even attempt to set up times to visit and hang out every few months. It’s hard, but if there are people in your life you really care about, this is where the work comes in. And then it’s just easy.
& lastly, but also most of all,
you need people who won’t bring you down
It’s so easy to become your own worst enemy in your 20s. For me, I’ve found that especially post-graduation, being in my mid-twenties has been emotional and introspective and kind of an amazing but challenging whirlwind of a mindf*ck all at once. I’ve found it was really f*cking hard to be surrounded by anyone who brought me down. It’s too easy to bring yourself down as it is, so your friends should be the ones there to lift you up.
I’ve had people in my life who would try to tell me that my problems weren’t a big deal. That the job I wanted to take wouldn’t be something I liked. That the job I was in was easy. That my major was a “joke.” What I should want from a guy, for my future. That I was a b*tch. That I was never going to have money. That I shouldn’t go back to school for free if it wasn’t going to make me more money. That certain people in my life didn’t give a f*ck about me. That I was tough to be around when I was going through hard times. That I’d never get a guy if I did x, y or z thing. That talked behind my back. That only talked about themselves. Constant and nagging opinions about how I should live my life. To be honest, I had friendships that made me hate the person I was becoming because of the way they told me I was and what I should be instead.
I started to wonder if the ways I was being described and put down were coming from a place of truth or a place of disillusion, a place of self consciousness and maybe even a little jealousy. Probably a combination. I started to realize that my friends who had all of these other important qualities I value in friendships at this time in my life saw me in very different ways. In much more positive and uplifting ways. And they brought out the best in me instead of (apparently) the very worst.
In my 20s, I learned that there’s a difference between being loyal and being a little naive and putting up with some real bullsh*t. There comes a point in your life when you have to remember that YOU have control over your life and what happens to you and the people you surround yourself with. It’s sad and it’s hard. For me, it took a long time to see that—for me to see that you accept the love and friendship that you think you deserve.
In your 20s, you learn when it’s time to cut the bullsh*t. It’s easy to get wrapped up in surface level friendships that are full of partying, laughs and drinking. But when it comes down to it, the people you want in your daily life are your shoulders to cry on, your mid-day phone calls and the healthy, two-sided, uplifting, heart-filling, beautiful friendships and relationships.