People often ask me what I miss most about Scotland. I am sure nobody will be surprised to hear it is not the weather (parts of Scotland get 250 days of rain a year), haggis (though a sheep’s stomach full of offal is surprisingly good), or even the landscape (which is actually good, see all that rain). You are getting closer if you guess I miss the accent, the ‘could be misconstrued as mean but is really playful’ banter, and generally the ‘we will rise as underdogs’ spirit of the Scot. But the real answer is quite boring because it is so obvious. My friends and family.
I left Scotland knowing I would take a handful of best friends with me. These are friends who have been through it all with me and I knew we could build a transatlantic friendship. These friendships are worth preserving but it is also slightly disheartening because the circumstances of life mean the way these friendships work has to change. All of a sudden you don’t see these people regularly like you used to or share the same experiences. You can't just meet up for a natter or grab dinner together. These friendships require a different kind of intentional work. They take on a new significance in your life.
It may sound like an awkward thing to say but I also need friends here. I believe we were made for relationship. It would be a bit weird if I only had friends in Scotland and tried to just live in New York without really investing in relationships. I have great deep friendships that are transitioning into long distance relationships but I also need day-to-day friends. Friends that see your life. So they can see when you are having a bad day without you needing to tell them and be there to celebrate with you in the happy moments. You need the friends who can hang out with you last minute. You need the friends who see your vulnerability. I mean I probably could survive without any more friends but I probably shouldn't.
So here I am at 30 years old trying to remember how to build friendships again. I watch my son play with a kid in the park and suddenly become best buds. It is all so simple at 3. Just play a game of tag and share a toy car. I don’t know about you but I no longer play with toy cars and I am busy. I have children that require constant love and attention, a husband that requires slightly less love and attention, and we are trying to pastor a church that perhaps needs the most love and attention. With all that it can be hard to have room for friends. I am just not in the friend making sweet spot that was my twenties.
I may have just admitted I need some friends but no one likes to look like they are desperate for a friend. I think we probably all have hang-ups left over from High School and the pressure to look like you had the 'required amount' of friends. And like dating, being in a state of building new friendships is not always a comfortable experience. The other day someone asked me if I have made friends since moving here. Which is a really tricky question. Needless to say, I spluttered, started to overthink the whole idea, and then tried to get my husband to answer the question for me. My brain was going,
‘Gosh, what even constitutes a friend? In all my life have I ever had a friend?’
It wasn’t my slickest moment. It was like watching a millennial's brain shut down through over-analysis....oh wait it was watching that. I should add this answer came even though I have lots of interesting people I hang out with and I am building friendships here. I can only imagine what my answer would have been if I was feeling all alone. Our culture makes it awkward and uncomfortable to desire some more friends as adults and it judges our worth accordingly.
But I don't think my awkward situation is exclusive to those of us who have moved country. Maybe you have just moved city, changed job, or gone to college. Perhaps your life stage changed or you had a baby and now your friends are all working 9-5 while you have the afternoon chat shows to keep you company. It could be that all your friends moved away or got married (which is sometimes harder because they drop off the face of the earth and still live on the same street). Maybe, you took a look at your life and realized you need some better friends.
I think that we should just admit right now that this is normal. If you have never found yourself needing some more friends I guarantee it will happen at some point. Sometimes we just find ourselves in a friendship deficiency and we should embrace that as a standard experience. Because we are no longer in High School it does not have to mean something terrible about our identity. It just means we are humans experiencing human things. When someone admits they feel lonely or would like more friends we don't have to feel pity or look down on them. We should just empathize that this is living.