One of the things that has happened in recent years with regards to my social life: my friends started having kids. Now, obviously, they didn’t do this because they knew it would be weird for me – I’m not that narcissistic. But it does certainly change the dynamic. Now, the dynamic of many of my friends and I has been a little odd for a while anyway, because 4 of my closest friends form two married couples. I, as you might know, am terminally single – as I joke occasionally, I am 82.5% of the way to being a Steve Carrell movie. So, as much as I love my friends, it’s always a bit awkward being the single guy at the married table.
Now, both couple have kids – one each, both beautiful baby girls. I haven’t had the chance to go see either of them yet, for various reasons (one of the most recent being, obviously, being in treatment). I’m not sure how that affects our relationships. Well, that’s not true; I know that it definitely restricts the time that my friends have available to talk to me. Now, on occasion, I can be a somewhat needy friend (yes, sports fans, it’s true). In fact, for a number of months before my most recent suicide attempt, I spent a part of almost every night on the phone or Skype to at least one couple, if not both. Now, this was largely because, as I have noted, I didn’t really have any close friends in St. Louis. But it still took up a lot of their time, and while they may have been gracious enough to give it, I was asking a fair amount.
Now, of course, that has changed. With both couples having kids, our contact has been sporadic at best – while I was in Menninger, I was lucky if I talked to each couple, or at least one member of each couple, once a week, and now that I am at a step-down program, contact is only slightly more regular. Part of that is that I have a whole other group of friends down here; I can spend a lot of time with them, and my day is often also filled up with groups, appointments, and other such activities. But their schedules are changing, too, to accommodate their families and the changes in their lives that have resulted. Being parents is a lot of work – even I know that, and most of what I know about parenthood I learned from TV. So in some ways we are growing apart.
We have been for a long time, of course; it’s been years since I got together with college friends for video games and RPGs, and even my visits to old friends in Omaha have been limited to maybe twice a year. Our schedules are such that it is hard to find time for us to do any kind of gaming activity online, and even then, some of our preferences as relates to means of entertainment have changed. I can talk to my friends about RPGs and video games, but playing them together seems to be a thing of the past. That’s a little disappointing, because it was a fun activity. But what I’ve known for a long time, though have only really lately really taken the time to think about, is that the activities, while fun, are not how I define my friendships.
These friends of mine have done a great deal for me. They all came to visit me after my first suicide attempt, regardless of what they were doing at the time, and that meant a great deal to me. Our relationship isn’t defined by the activities we do together, though they are a nice bonus; our friendships are defined by what we mean to each other, and I don’t think that has changed. Even if we get less time to say it (for several of us, in very manly and roundabout kind of ways), we are still close friends, regardless of geographic location. I would trust any one of these friends with my life, and I hope that they feel similarly. Things are changing in our lives, and, barring some kind of awesome How I Met your Mother situation, we’ll likely never live as closely or spend as much time together as we used to.
But we remain friends, and I hope that one day soon – soon being a relative term, sadly – I will get to visit them, and their new children, so they can get to know someone who owes their mommies and daddies a great deal.