Finding Your Family-Friends

There’s a part in the new Mindy Kaling book where she writes about the changes that happen in friendships. 

Specifically, she writes about the period in her late twenties when all of her friends began to move apart, and the difficulty that comes not right away when friends start to move apart, but later when you realize how permanent the moves were, and how much they change the course of the relationships.

This big moving period happened around the same time for me and my friends. In my mid-late twenties, I decided to move away as several of my friends had before me. We'd all left home and gone to college, then left college and gone to New York, or maybe moved around New York and in some cases, left the city and returned. No big deal, right? 

But in the book, Mindy writes about the experience she had later upon realizing what these moves really meant:

"...I realized [that] this long expanse of free time to rekindle friendships is not real. We will never come home to each other again and we will never again have each other's undivided attention. That version of our friendship is over forever."

Stings, doesn't it?

Like many other ladies of a certain age, I completely relate to this and the pain I felt after moving from my girlfriends in New York. See, I had a strong, serious girl squad going in Brooklyn. We were roommates and neighbors and friends, and it was great. Me and D were doing the long distance thing at the time, and since he was in London I somehow had the best (and worst) of both worlds: endless time with my girlfriends, with the comfort of knowing my serious, steady boyfriend was a sleepy Skype call or an exotic plane ride away. Pretty great, right?

But of course it wasn't.

It got to a point where long distance wasn't a realistic option for us and besides, managing it all was difficult. And so I moved to London, thinking that what happened to me when I moved to New York was the same thing that would happen each time I moved for the rest of my life. I'd show up and within months join a group of friends that would truly and deeply 'get' me. Family-friends, as I like to call them.

Of course that's not true either. Each move, and the community you encounter on the other end of that move, will be different.

I've written a lot about my time in London, that's for sure, but one of the biggest shocks I had when I left my New York life was suddenly finding myself without a strong group of those family-friend girlfriends. I built amazing one-on-one friendships in London, and I now miss those women dearly every single day. But in those early London days, when I'd just moved from my family-friends in New York, it felt like overnight I had abandoned one part of my life and woken up, jet lagged and wearing yesterday's clothes, in another.

A couple of months after my move, I was visited by a best friend who was living somewhere between New York and L.A. Because I was still such a newbie to the world of post-female live-in friendships, I was overjoyed at her visit because it made me realize how much I missed her and my other family-friends.

Though I was thrilled with my new life in London, though I loved the decision I had made, though I (and I hope this goes without saying) was beyond happy to have left behind the late night sleepy Skype calls that long distance relationships are made of and instead have the person I loved right next to me, it was still hard to not have my family-friends there with me. Ultimately, the realization that my New York life and my new life in London couldn't and wouldn't exist together because of countries and visas and jobs and all the rest was the hardest thing to accept.

It was all too raw. For a few years I couldn't watch Girls because it reminded me too much of my former Greenpoint life. And when I returned to New York last month for the first time since I left, that feeling of rawness came over me again and for a few days, it felt like the wound had reopened.

Now that I'm in a new city and building female friendships one by one (thank you, Instagram, for introducing me to kindred spirits I never would've met otherwise) I've come to terms with the fact that this will probably be my world of friends going forward. We all have our groups of friends that exist in our hometowns or former home cities, and now we all take on new friends one by one. But rebuilding that old group of family-friends? It won't happen again. That period in your life where your friends were your everyday family? It looks different now than it did before.

These days, I focus on finding ways to stay in touch with my family-friends, mainly by incorporating them in every aspect of my day – through texts and talks of plans for visits. Now, it's a case of quality over quantity. We don't sit around quite as much in our pajamas on Tuesday nights, so instead we talk more and plot and plan for future celebrations.

It is hard, though. Staying in touch with friends lies somewhere between the world of the constant marathon phone calls of a long distance relationship and the scheduled Sunday Skypes used with far away family. More often than not, in that between world, the plans have a tendency to fall apart.

And so you work harder at it because family-friends are worth it. They're rare, hard to find, and must be clung to regardless of distance and time and change in circumstance.

And you know what? We may never come home to each other again, as Mindy said, but seeing each other on weekend visits brings me back to myself in a way that only family-friends can, and that's more than I could ask for. 

I think Mindy would agree.