'Where Are All My Friends'
Psychologies|February 2020
At the end of last year, Heidi Scrimgeour was mourning close friends who had drifted away in the craziness of life. This year, she decided, would be different

At midnight last New Year’s Eve, I realised I had all but lost touch with some of the most important friends I’ve ever had. Perhaps it was the champagne, but I suddenly felt overcome with sadness as I thought of all the people I hadn’t had contact with that year – the girls I went to university with; the couples I spent my 20s with before moving out of London; and Mary, my bestie, who moved home to the United States several years ago.

I miss you so much

Beyond that glass of bubbly, I think the cusp of a new year draws our intentions into sharp focus. As I reflected on what had changed that year – a redundancy, a difficult house move and the sudden death of a friend – I found myself wanting to hold ever tighter to the things that had stayed the same. In particular, I wanted to reach out to old friends, whose presence in my life is an anchor when life is challenging.

In those first few minutes of the new year, I promised myself I’d stop saying, ‘We must catch up’ while knowing we probably wouldn’t. This year, we would!

What I didn’t realise, however, was how difficult it would be. For the first three months of the year, I found it easier to make grand gestures than to do the deeper work of finding time for my mates. I booked a work trip around the chance to spend 24 hours hanging out with my beloved American friend. Although we both valued the stolen time together, I realised, a few weeks later, that I wasn’t in touch with her any more frequently than before. Little had actually changed.

Why is it so hard, when I love and value these people so much? I seek help from an expert, who reassures me that this happens to many of us. ‘In our 20s, we had time for impromptu meet-ups and extended periods with friends, and we probably lived closer to them,’ says psychologist Vanessa Moulton, ‘but as time goes by, we become more dispersed and other commitments take priority, so inevitably keeping in touch becomes more challenging.’

Life has changed beyond recognition since many of my friendships were formed. There’s the curly-haired playmate I met at Sunday school aged seven who would later be my bridesmaid, but whose own curly girls I’ve yet to meet; the gang I shared halls of residence with at 19, but who haven’t managed a get-together for more than a decade; and Mary, with whom I shared every up and down of new motherhood, who now lives 8,000 kilometres away.

Different but the same

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