On friendship

I’ve been thinking about friendship quite a lot lately. In June, my D.C. book club read Rachel Bertsche‘s “MWF Seeking BFF.” It’s about a Chicago-transplant’s year-long search for a new best friend. Then I moved back to Columbia, where I’ve been pondering new/old friendships.

To be honest, friendship is something I think about pretty often. Ever since graduating from college pretty much. In fact that’s something they should teach in undergrad — how to make and keep friends after college. When you are in school it’s relatively easy to build relationships — you have something to complain about together at least. After that, making and building and forming new friendships gets much more difficult.

Maybe this sounds rather pathetic to some people. But after reading Bertsche’s book, I’ve come to believe I’m not alone.

I’ve always had a fair amount of friends. I’m a very social person. I love to plan gatherings and get-togethers. However, when I look back through the years, I have few close-knit friends. I’m entirely unlike my husband who has a large group of best buds from high school. A good number of my friendships have been transitory (sadly).

When we moved to D.C. over four years ago, we knew hardly anyone. Luckily one good friend from undergrad called Bethesda home, so we saw him kind of often. (He’s become one of our good friends, as has his girlfriend, Jess). Other than that, the husband and I spent most of our time together.

The first year in D.C. wasn’t too bad. I worked for an organization that had a group of interns. I came to love these people — hosting college-esque game nights and joining the trivia league at Stetsons. Then with the regular transitions of Washington, they left.

SPLC interns have settled all across the country now.

When I changed jobs, I lost my connection to making new friends. The second year was much harder. While it was probably great for our relationship, we weren’t meeting a lot of new people, building bonds, what have you. I’d wish I had read Bertsche’s book back then.

I remember having a phone conversation with my best friend in Atlanta about the difficulties of finding new friends. She was struggling too. I did a little investigating into ways to find new friends, something social media was pretty helpful with. I joined “GNO DC” — Girls Night Out D.C. via Twitter and Yahoo. But never worked up the nerve to go to one of their many gatherings.

Then I started grad school where I met some really awesome girls. We had a very fun and busy year.

Final dinner at Cactus Cantina with the last of the AU grad school crew.

By our final year in D.C. the husband and I had a pretty great group of friends. Some we met through school or work and others were old connections we worked hard to rekindle.

I had cool girls from grad school, crazy chicks from the office, fun friends from book club, a long-lost close friend from college and even a couple of social media/Twitter IRL friends. (I miss them like crazy!) I think in these years, I’ve learned not to just give up on friendships but to work at the good ones.

The coolest girls from BNA.

Even though I’m back in Columbia where I went to college, I know searching, keeping and maintaining friendships constantly requires work. If you stop trying, you lose touch, you have falling-outs.

My time in Washington did teach me how to build new friendships, something I wouldn’t have thought too much about if I’d never been through those years of loneliness (I had to make my husband go see Twilight with me because I had no girlfriends to go. I’m still living that one down).

I had a conversation with a good friend about Bertsche’s book (which, I’ll agree isn’t the BEST book ever**) when I realized that if you’ve never been in this situation (a new place without friends), you probably don’t think about friendship, what it means and how to you find them. For some people, friendships just come naturally. For others, it’s something you seek.

Something I’m loving about this insight I’m bringing to this old city is that I’m not just relying on the few friends I have here. Sure I’ve got some great buddies in this city that know me from my “Baby Spice” days and I’ll have to work on making those bonds closer.

Reconnecting with a great college buddy

But I’m quite a different person from college. Washington changed me (even if I do still know all the words to “Wannabe.”). I’ve already started seeking those new friends and thinking about others. I’ve set aside a weekly TV date with my SIL who I’m excited to be so close to (I also can’t wait to enroll my niece in Girl Scouts). I’ve had lunch with my cousin several times and I look forward to continuing that.


I’m excited about the opportunity to not only rediscover the city I love but find new friends in doing so.

I miss my best friend like crazy! Come back from Guam already.

**Note on Bertsche’s book: I agree with my friend that it isn’t the greatest book ever. In fact, I never would have read it without the prompting of book club (that’s why book clubs are so awesome). I’m glad I did though. It does have some very interesting insight into our social lives and the importance of keeping close friends.

Friendship is a cyclical thing that changes as we move through lifestages. If we read books about all the other aspects of our lives — careers, happiness, family — why not invest some time in actually thinking about our friends.

My complaint with the book is pretty simple. You can tell she was setting out to write a book — not so much to really find a BFF. That said, I found it funny and touching in places. And overall, insightful and easy to read.

5 Responses to “On friendship”
  1. Felicia says:

    Really great insights, Liz. Wjen I lived in Greenwiod right after college I had no friends to speak of. It was awful. I drove back to Cola and crashed on friends’ couches most weekends just to have some social life. I’ve also lost good friends without knowing what happened. Friendship is just like a romantic relationship, it requires constant attention. Sure, there are people in my life I can go a whole year without talking to and never doubt our friendship. When we meet up again it’s like we never missed a beat, but sometime I wonder how great it would be if I could put in just a little more effort and have that person in my life all the time. Anyway, great post. And you’re right, it’s one of the many things your not prepared for coming outta school.

    • Liz says:

      I don’t think people are open enough about friendships. It seems embarrassing. And that was an interesting part of Bertsche’s book. She talks about feeling very uncomfortable with going on “friend dates” because she felt like people would think she was pathetic. I like that after reading the book I was able to talk more openly with a group of people about friends.

  2. ZenLizzie says:

    I think fear of not being able to make friends is one of the reasons I’ve never made plans to go far from home on any permanent basis. For some reason I think of myself as someone who doesn’t make friends easily, although it only took a few weeks of grad school to meet some awesome ladies that I know I’ll be in contact with for a long time. The only time I really struggled was after undergrad when I moved to Florence for work. I had work friends, but working 2nd shift at a newspaper made it pretty difficult to meet anyone who wasn’t on a crazy journalist schedule. It was actually a pretty miserable 2 years, and I think maybe that’s where my “I’ll never make any friends”-phobia started. Who would have thought making friends as an adult would be so hard. I’ve heard about the book, but haven’t added it to my “to read” list.

    • Liz says:

      Yeah. I’ve done it and I don’t know if it’s something I could do again. You do learn from these things though so there’s that. If you’re looking for something that’s kind of quick, and your interested in the subject matter, it’s not a bad book.

  3. alexiscasey says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, my dear. Unfortunately, in my line of….life?…transitory friends seem to be all I can accrue in the here and now. I’m lucky to have friends like you who I may not get to talk with very often, don’t see HARDLY enough, but know will always be there for me and when I become the prodigal daughter and return stateside (Um. Next year needs to HURRY. UP.) I am hopeful that our friendship (nee, best friendship and luhvaship) will be able to pick up where it was last dropped. I love that you are an old soul like me, and I feel connected to you though the miles keep us separated.

    I love you, Baby Spice.

    oh…have you seen my baby?

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