Yay! My first reader question: – Are people who have maintained the same friendships from primary school, or possibly high school, happier than those who have not?
Countless studies and articles exist to point out the importance of a person’s childhood friends. You never have to explain yourself or your situation to these friends. After all, they were right along with you for the ride. They know your family, they share most of your childhood experiences and memories and they have grown and changed with you, making them incomparable to any other friends. Nobody can deny your history or take that away from you. These friends can remind you who you really are when you have lost yourself….
Except… people do change…. childhood friends can also hold us back. They can become uncomfortable with changes we make, if those changes don’t fit with the idea of us they thought they knew. In order to keep pushing the boundaries, to keep experiencing, experimenting and growing as people, we need new people in our lives. New people challenge us, introduce us to ideas, concepts, experiences and feelings we may never have known without them. New friends don’t hold us to an idea of who they think we are or who we should be, so there is more room for change and growth. New friends don’t have as many expectations of us… yet… because they are still learning who we are. It is with them that we continue to learn who we are for ourselves too.
Childhood friends are meant to be our “warts and all” friends. They will always be there for us…. so perhaps we don’t feel we have to try as hard with them. We tend to consider them low maintenance… That very thing can be a double edged sword though, can’t it? The amount of time we gave to these friends once upon a time was enough to create lifelong bonds, this is undeniable. After all, as children all we had, was time for our friends. As we grow older and take on more responsibilities and other relationships, we find the amount of time we have for friends diminishing year by year! This can mean we are either closed off to new friends, leaving us with only stuffy childhood friendships, which can allow us to stay feeling bored and unmotivated…. Or alternatively we may begin to neglect these older childhood friendships in preference of newer more exciting ones. When this happens, we need to invest much more time in the newer friendships to develop the bonds required for genuine connection… and we may be guilty of simply using our childhood friends as space fillers when our new friends are unavailable?
It is said that we only have the brain capacity to maintain a handful of close friends at any one time. It stands to reason then, that as we make a new friend later in life, one or two of our primary childhood friends can expect to get downgraded. Regardless of intention, it happens. From my own experience I can see the way I have downgraded older friends for newer ones… made a few trade – in’s… because the newer friends fit me better at the time I suppose. I can also see that I really hurt at least one childhood friend in doing this. It wasn’t my intention of course, but people change. I changed away from most of my old friends. Maybe because I didn’t know myself when they knew me, and they preferred it that way. Maybe because they didn’t know themselves either. Maybe because I didn’t really know or like the people they grew and changed into or vice versa…
Without question there is power in choosing one’s own friends! In our younger years, circumstance, convenience and parents made many of these choices for us…. When I fell out with my oldest friend a few years ago, I found that this friendship was actually not one I had chosen for myself. I hadn’t given it much conscious consideration before then… My mother had befriended this girl’s mother when we were 2 years old and thus we were expected to be friends based only on proximity, gender and age forever more?! Long story short, (long story to follow) this friend was chosen for me, I was not given any choice in the matter. I was her friend throughout childhood because my mother said so.
Which brings me to my next point about childhood friendships… even if we do get a choice in the matter…. perhaps we develop these friendships before we know who we are or what we want and to an extent maybe we get stuck together even as we grow apart. Often we don’t even question if we still like our childhood friends… or if we ever did. In my case this friend was made for me and I was not asked if I liked her. It seemed irrelevant to everyone…. Even me!
Old friends are great… assuming you like each other, and both still want to continue making the effort and the choice to stay friends, regardless of if the original choice was yours or not. You shouldn’t feel trapped, burdened or obligated. By old friends… or by new ones!
So what is the verdict? Old friends or new? It doesn’t actually matter! The important thing is not the quantity of friends, or the amount of years they have been in your life, it is the quality of the friends you have. The important thing is that you have friends that meet your social emotional needs and that you feel happy and supported; that you allow room to challenge each other and grow and change as people. Stay conscious of your feelings. Do you still like your friends? If you find you are no longer enjoying your old friends, make new ones!
The old saying goes “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and one is gold.” It is a lovely sentiment, but even old friends were new once. Keep an open heart and an open mind and let people show you for themselves who is silver and who is gold.
Your Best Friend ForNever