These Are the Friendships That Survived This Year
Tomorrow I have a Zoom call with two people I haven’t seen in-person in nearly 20 years. We’ve been doing a video call every few weeks since the summer. These virtual meetings have become a much-anticipated event of pandemic life for me this year. These women know a part of me and a part of my life that most of my friends and even my husband don’t.
Spread out between three states and two time zones, before the pandemic, we were “Facebook friends” but didn’t have one another’s cell phone number for texting.
Our relationship predates texting. We were roommates back in college.
But this year we finally started a group text. It’s called “Trouble in the Triple”, which references the year the three of us shared one room and (surprise) got into all kinds of trouble. It makes me laugh and helped us all through the stress of the election this fall.
This year relationships were tested and destroyed
Some relationships, both within families and between friends did not survive the year. If you didn’t experience it yourself, at the very least you likely witnessed some heated exchanges on social media.
While so far data shows that divorce rates are down this year, we all know marriages that have included increased tension and disagreements too. Next year’s stats are yet unknown. There’s more than one Facebook support group for the disappointed wives and partners of men who voted for Trump. Each has thousands of members.
The events of 2020 revealed fundamental differences in our beliefs that have made it difficult to maintain some friendships. It’s like the year was a giant block sorter — separating those with racist, homophobic, sexist, and anti-masking beliefs from all the rest.
Maybe they are fewer than you thought, maybe they are not who you thought, but they deserve to be celebrated. And we don’t need to wait for the pandemic or even this year to be over to do it.
While we can all acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their opinion, fundamental ideological differences are harder to overcome. In some cases, they change our perception of a person so much we no longer wish to try.
Racism, sexism, and homophobia are not just opinions.
The evidence of the merits of mask-wearing is unmistakable.
And it’s hard to love people who profess, sometimes perplexingly proudly, not to care about the health and well-being of their fellow citizens because their individual liberties are more important. If there is one thing that we learned this year, it’s that there’s nothing we can say to change their minds.
So, perhaps it’s understandable that instead of your closet, you might have Marie Kondo-ed your friends list. Some friends did not spark joy for you this year, only anger, frustration, outrage, disgust, and bewilderment.
You unfriended, unfollowed, and blocked. You just stop calling and texting. Or maybe someone did those things to you.
Either way, it was disappointing and sad. It hurt.
Then there are the relationships that remain
Now, what we have left, if we are lucky, are the relationships that brought us comfort and joy.
If you have ever followed the Kondo method to clean out your physical possessions, you likely discovered how much more you appreciate and rely on those that remain. You can see them more clearly and take better care of them.
And now maybe you’ve found it’s the same with your friendships.
As challenging as this year has been, it would have been so much worse without our friends, no matter if you have many, or just a few.
Some of your friendships may be many years or even decades old. There is something special about friendships with people who knew you when your brain wasn’t fully developed. They know about all the dumb things you did and said, and still want to talk to you.
The unique comfort that comes from old friendships also helps explains why it’s so painful when one of them blows up over politics or other issues coming to light.
That’s happened too.
We lose a part of our history and ourselves when it does. It’s a significant loss and unlike a death, there is no ceremony to mark the end of the relationship. Not even a funeral on Zoom (which I think maybe the very worst kind).
But not all friends that sustained us this year have known us that long. Some are newer friends. Some may even be friends you’re never met in person.
If you are like me, this year you might have turned toward special interest groups on social media for support and encouragement. These people, whom we likely will never meet, also helped give us hope that we are not, in fact, alone in our thoughts, concerns, interests, and hopes for the future.
There are so many friends to thank (even if they are one person)
The friends who shared funny memes to make us smile.
The ones who let us cry to them over Facetime.
Those who listened to us complain, even when we both knew there was nothing they could do about it, but listen. (But listening is not nothing! Sometimes it is everything and the only thing.)
The friends who dropped something off on our front porch when we weren’t looking.
The ones who participated in a car parade on our birthdays or on our children’s. Those brought smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes. We will remember those birthdays.
The friends who chose us for their pod and kept their commitment to keeping it small.
The ones who met us for walks, six-plus feet or across the street apart, but still there.
And the ones with whom we shared a happy hour (with or without drinks) online or socially distanced in-person.
The ones who also said they are so sick and tired of the term “social distanced” and can’t wait for it to drop out of daily use.
So, here’s to the friends that made it this year, the ones who reminded us though we weren’t together, we weren’t alone.
These friends, even if sometimes they were rolled into just a couple of humans or a single best friend (who truly earned their title this year) showed us it’s quality that counts in friendship, not quantity.
If you made it this far, celebrate
Maybe they are fewer than you thought, maybe they are not who you thought, but these friendships deserve to be celebrated. And we don’t need to wait for the pandemic or even this year to be over to do it.
As challenging as this year has been, it would have been so much worse without our friends, no matter how many we have.
On Thanksgiving, I texted my former roommates to express my gratitude for our renewed friendship. It felt like a gift this year. One that arrived right when I needed it. I had hoped it would happen one day and amidst all the turmoil this year offered was also the opportunity and prompting for us to make it happen.
So, here’s to the friendships that made it this year, the ones who reminded us though we weren’t together, we weren’t alone. We may be in it together for the long haul. After all, what can tear us apart, if 2020 couldn’t?