‘Appreciate these high school days, because when you leave, you’ll realise how nice it was to spend every day with your best friends.’
We all heard it from at least one of the adults in our lives, didn’t we? And we all subsequently scoffed in response, sure that we would of course still see our friends every week, and sure that we would of course maintain the same level of contact that saw us notifying our entire phonebook every time the boy from the year above nudged us on MSN. There would be at least one monthly piss up down the local park (even when we were old enough to no longer sneak into dingy bars before the bouncers arrived, because drinking in the park was ~ our thing ~), all birthdays would be celebrated together in respect of our life-long pact, and under absolutely no circumstances would we allow ourselves to “adult” to the point of losing contact.
Well, that was the plan anyway, the plan we were so convinced was entirely unique to ourselves, the friends who had bonded more than any friends had ever bonded before. We were different.
But then you leave school, and you start to take different paths, and slowly yet suddenly you’re 24 years old, writing an article on the train home after a day of meetings, wondering which friends you haven’t seen for the longest and where you can squeeze them in over the coming weeks. Then you remember your grandparents who you need to visit as a matter of urgency. And then you remember your old work friend, who you shoot heart emojis across to in an effort to reaffirm that despite having not seen her all year, you still love. And then you remember your boyfriend, with whom you snatch moments in the kitchen between work and life, and with whom, now you come to think of it, weekly date nights have become somewhat of a monthly affair.
Many are quick to warn you that you’ll miss spending every day with your mates, but nobody prepares you for the part-time role for which you’ve never applied: that of the friend scheduler.
The friend schedule is a balancing act, around which orbits a tipping scale for each of your mates. Neglect them for too long, and *pop*, they’ll drop, requiring more than a Nando’s wrap and a shared bottle of lunchtime rosé to remedy the breakup. Don’t take your eye off the ball for too long, however, because for every time you do see them, another goes unseen. And so, like a conductor, you orchestrate as perfect a harmony as you can, filling sporadic coffee-date windows and planning as many one-size-fits-all open house BBQs as possible.
A “friend schedule” makes everything sound so cold and uncaring, as if you’re delicately maouvering through a multiple choice quiz with each selection needing to work towards the greatest possible result. Of course, this isn’t the case. We would all love to have enough time for every person in our lives - including ourselves - but what with the small matters of, oh, you know, working, sleeping, eating and breathing, our additional time is limited at best. In fact, a friend schedule is almost impossible to opt out of; if you care even an iota about your relationships with the people around you, then you are almost definitely partaking in one.
That’s not to say we all work to the same calendar, however. Even within our own judgement of how long between brunch dates is too long, some friends work to different meta-timelines than others. I tend to see my primary school best friend about once every two or three years, when we sit down for a meaty beefer of a catch up and end up howling over the ridiculously melodramatic diary entries we wrote as kids. On the other hand, it would be weird to not see my blogging gals at least once a week, even if we aren’t working. Each friendship is different; some are best stored in the fridge to be consumed within 5 days, and others you can tuck away in a cool dry place for a later date. They’re all worthy friendships, nonetheless.
And whilst we all recognise that missed lunch opportunities and unfulfilled boozy promises are rarely the result of legitimate friend neglect (feel free to call my hotline if your mate has cancelled for the third time in a row), we can’t deny that some friendships have an expiry date. Without the proper TLC, they’ll perish, and then you’re left with the prospect of awkwardly bumping into them in Tescos with neither of you really knowing which level of small talk is now appropriate.
Who wants that? Not us, and so we continue to balance the scales of our friend schedule, planning forward but always looking back to ensure no man has been left behind. It’s like a weird, sexy, adult dance that we do, trying to maintain loving connections with the people we value whilst simultaneously being tired and a bit overwhelmed. Nobody prepares us for this never-ending juggling act, but we slip into it anyway, quietly wondering at the back of our minds how anybody with a child ever manages to stay upright (actual human adults are difficult enough, but trying to work, socialise, exist, and raise a miniature version of yourself? HOW?).
Though it can be stressful and though it is often an organisational nightmare, the friend schedule, at the heart of it, is a well-meaning beast. Any time I’m rewinding my month and wondering who I’ve seen the least, it’s not to cover my own back - it’s because I don’t want my pals to think I’m not thinking of them. We can’t realistically make every mate a priority, but as we all circulate through our own lives, every now and then overlapping into each other’s, it’s easy to overlook how much that bottle of overpriced corner shop wine could mean.
So that juggling? I guess it’s kinda nice and important.
The sun is shining, my coffee tastes delicious, and this morning I managed to squeeze a boatload of blackheads out...