Last week I went out to dinner with a few good friends. At one point, the conversation led us to a discussion about living alone versus with roommates, and from there to how much we each love, or don’t love, spending time alone. One friend said she prefers to have other people around most of the time, another said that, while she prefers to live with other people, she does need time alone to recharge. Personally, I prefer to spend the majority of my time alone.
It’s not that I don’t need or enjoy the company of other people, it’s just that I feel the most calm, the most grounded, and the most at peace when I’m alone. And there are times when I have to make a conscious decision to be around other people; I have to remind myself that it’s good for my health and that it’s important to nurture my relationships by spending time with the people I love.
The truth is, I love being alone but hate being lonely. And spending small, but meaningful, amounts of quality time with other people is as intensely important to me as spending time alone.
Whether you love or don’t love being alone, I think we all need other people and that dinner conversation got me thinking not only about how much we need other people, but also about the different types of people we need, and so I came up with a list; I’m lucky to have more than one of each of these friends in my life, I hope you are too.
1. The one you’ve known forever. This is the friend you’ve known since you were two, or since Kindergarten, or middle school. The one who knows where you come from, who remembers the wallpaper in your childhood bedroom and the day your baby sister was born; who remembers your first crush and your first car.
You might not live close to each other any more, you might not talk every day, or even see each other more than once a year. But this person feels like home and you can always pick up with her exactly where you left off last time. There’s something very comforting about having someone in your life who knows your past backwards and inside out.
2. The one who’s in the exact same place in her life as you are. This is, I believe, one of the most important friendships a person can have. It’s not as important, not as necessary, when you’re a teenager or even in college. For the first 21 or so years of our lives, most of us follow a path that’s pretty similar to our peers. And then one day, somewhere in our mid-twenties, we each begin to explore different offshoots of that shared trail.
In the a little more than ten years since I graduated from college (and the almost ten (!) years since I moved to Vail) I’ve seen my friends since forever and friends from my Vail family all go through different seasons, some of which – marriage or motherhood, for example – I have no context for, no way to relate to. And I’ve never been more grateful to the universe than when I know that friend has a bond with another wife or mother. And as much as I cherish the friendships I have with those who are mothers and wives, sometimes I just need the understanding of someone else who’s single.
3. The one you’re currently closest to. She could also fit into one or more of the categories above, or maybe into all of these categories, but this is your go-to person. The person you call first to share the best – or worst – news ever, or even just the news that you started a new workout program. She let’s you vent, cry and throw a tantrum, but won’t hesitate to say something that will challenge you, even if it’s not what you want to hear in that moment. You’ve probably had a fight or some kind of conflict at some point, and it made your friendship stronger.
And I say currently closest to because I think this person changes over time as life’s circumstances change; I’d bet that, at some point, each of the friends on this list has been the one currently closest to you.
4. The one you met in college. Very similar to the one you’ve known forever, except she was your partner in crime during those formative years and no one else gets jokes about that guy with the weird creepy smile who lived on your floor freshman year like she does.
5. The one who makes you laugh. At her jokes. At yourself. At moments that really shouldn’t be funny. You need people in your life who can make you laugh.
I also believe you need family, whether it’s the one you were born into or the one you created for yourself. I’m 32 and would be more lost now than I would have been at 5 without my parents in my life.
What would you add to this list?
What I’ve Learned From Living Alone