Growing up, my best friends basically lived at my house. We tried to trick our parents into letting us have as many sleepovers in a row as possible (though they definitely knew our scheme). We polished off pints of Starbucks ice cream, watched hours of Hannah Montana, painted our nails, and discussed every minor and major detail of our lives in the process.
When I got to college, I was once again surrounded by people. My random roommate match-up turned out to be a friend for life, and our floor was always buzzing with activity. By junior year, I was living in a house with five girls (and sharing one shower, oof). While our heat didn’t work during Michigan winter (it was…character-building), it was also one of my favorite life seasons. There was always someone to cook and eat dinner with, someone to drive to campus with or to tag along to the grocery store. Someone to study with at a coffee shop or go on a long walk around Reed’s Lake.
We chose those friendships, and we were intentional about them. But convenience was surely a factor in all the time we spent together.
Since graduation, we’ve scattered across the country. We have friends in California, Seattle, Chicago, Nashville, and of course, Michigan. Our daily time together has turned into once-a-year reunions at someone’s wedding, as life gets continually more complicated with dwindling PTO and costs of travel and significant others and children in the mix.
One of my favorite things about my closest friends is how much fun we have doing absolutely nothing together. We could go to Walgreens to buy toiletries and laugh so hard we confuse the workers. When I first moved to Nashville, I remember talking to my friend (who had just moved to Los Angeles) about finding a friend to run errands with. The beginning of friendships can feel so formal. And it should be, at least a little bit. You’re getting to know someone, trying to determine whether you have enough in common to schedule another brunch or coffee outing. It requires a lot of time, and some potentially awkward conversations, before reaching the point of mundane errand-running. But it makes life that much more enjoyable, to do daily routine activities with a friend.
Recently, I read an article linked in a daily newsletter, the Morning Brew about the time we spend with friends (12/10 would recommend receiving their news blasts – use this link to subscribe and help me get a free coffee mug). Even before Covid sent us all into social distancing, we were already spending a smaller percentage of our time with friends, and in turn, a greater percentage alone. Surely social media is playing a role, especially for this next generation. But my time living alone these past few years has reinforced just how comfortable it can be to slide into routine alone. Most days it feels easier than socializing, no matter how much I love my friends. But it is also a lot lonelier. And according to that article, all the extra time we’re spending alone is having serious negative mental health implications.
And I absolutely feel that. If I go too many days with just the Hallmark Channel and my dog, I laugh a lot less (though my dog is objectively hilarious) and worry a lot more. As an introvert, I treasure and deeply need my time alone. But we are made for community—as uncomfortable and exposed as it may feel. My goal for this Christmas season is to make space for my people again, even if that just means heading to the grocery store together. Time spent connecting with my people will undoubtedly make the season sweeter, or at least that’s what the Hallmark Christmas movies have been telling me.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.