by: mathurah


i dont want friendships in my 20s to be fleeting

I’ve always loved the analogy of thinking of your life as a TV show, and you’re the main character. I’ve been re-watching Grey's Anatomy and after watching it for the second time, I’m realizing how much the characters change in-between seasons.

And it’s the same in our own lives too. We start off our first season with our childhood friends, and we’re lucky if they stick around. Then later seasons bring in friends from high school, university, work, and more. Some are season regulars, others are guest stars that float in and out of your life from time to time.

This has me thinking a lot about friendships. How it ebbs and flows, and all the components and little puzzle pieces that come together to make two people meet at a very point in time. I’ll be honest and say that, for most of my friendships, I don’t remember how exactly we became friends, but that we just sort of are.

Now I’m graduating, I’m thinking about the friendships that do stick. The season regulars, the 4lyfers as I like to call it. Even though the friends that came about could be a combination of chance, luck, and circumstances, your 4lyfers are everything intention and effort. Here, I break down what 4lyfers are, why they’re important, and how you can make sure they stay for the long haul.

you’re friends, beyond shared context

Roommates, co-workers, and class study buddies are all friendships built off of a foundation of shared context. You probably have fond memories of each other, but once you get a new lease, find a new job, or aren’t in the same classes as them anymore, you’ll run out of things to talk about.

Finding hobbies and activities to do together can give you more reasons to keep reaching out beyond your day-to-day context. One of my friends moved from Berlin to New York and he’s close to his childhood friend to this day because they play games together.

you introduce them to your other friends and your family

Seeing friends from different parts of my life meet is one of my favourite past-times - watching the people I deeply care about band together to share even more embarrassing stories about me is always funny to see unfold.

Jokes aside, it is incredibly difficult to maintain every single friendship you have 1:1. The more people you can have in permutations of group chats create a network to keep pulling everyone back in.

Bringing a romantic partner home to meet the family is one of the defining moments of a relationship, but is underrated in friendships. Introducing your friends to your family and partner makes it so much easier to integrate them into the rest of your life.

you commit to the bit (in recurring meetings)

I wondered why every single job I had insisted on keeping recurring weekly 1:1s with my manager, but it’s the most basic way to develop a relationship and keep people in touch.

I try to call my mom every day, or every other day at least. I don’t have a set time in my calendar but I usually call while I’m walking to school. I also have a friend from my high school years who despite never being in the same location for over 4 years, we are still very much in touch because we face time sporadically throughout the week. In an ideal world, I’d set some time every Sunday just to call old friends.

you have traditions and places to gather

Rituals like weekly writing clubs, co-working at cafes, brunch on Sundays, and meeting spots like the Friend’s coffee shop or the dance studio from Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants - there are reasons why movies and TV shows are centered around the classic meeting spots.

This builds onto the recurring meetings, but having places to gather and traditions you do together helps make friendships consistent in a life full of change and chaos.

you’ve probably fought before

A lot of friendships fizzle out for passive reasons, mostly because people are too scared to address conflict directly. The strongest friendships are the ones where you’re not afraid to disagree and continue to stick by each other even when it’s not the easiest thing to do. Once you’ve gotten over the conflict hurdle, you’re able to see each other completely, flaws and all, and still choose them to be your person.

you know each other well

A good gauge I like to use when figuring out how well I know someone is that I know their superpower and Achilles heel. You talk about the deep stuff - checking on each other’s mental health, deeply caring for each other, and being truly interested in their lives.

why 4lyfers are important.

I’m thoroughly impressed when I meet people who’ve had friends for a really long time. Or are still with their first loves. Their ability to stick with people no matter how much their life has changed is quite impeccable.

Knowing that you have people in your corner can boost your confidence, and even help you make riskier, more rewarding decisions when the relationships in your life are stable.

When you’re foraging your path and dealing with all the monsters of self-doubt, confusion, and noise along the way, the people who’ve known you since the beginning will be there to remind you of the dream you’ve had from the start, and keep it going from the wayside.

The loneliness epidemic has been cited as one of the biggest public health concerns by the government [1], and the best way to mitigate it is to strengthen the relationships we have now, which is why fostering long-term friendships is so important.

closing thoughts

Now I’m graduating from university soon, I have a lot of uncertainty myself, when my friends won’t be a 10-minute walk away or faces I’ll see every day in class next year. But I think I’ve figured out who I want to be my season regulars, and the rest will be time and effort.

~ Warmly, Mathurah

Special thanks to Kasra, Gian, and Shaahana for giving their feedback on this piece!

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