Female Friendships in Your 20s: Why You Need to Stop Being So Hard on Yourself

Something happens to our friendships when we leave school.

One day you’re with your “nineteen best friends” making plans for the future, vowing to be each other’s bridesmaids and promising to never spill each other’s secrets, and the next thing you know four years have passed, you’ve lost contact with half of those people and can’t even remember what teenage secrets were juicy enough to bother keeping in the first place.

You might think I just painted a rather savage picture, and yes there are the exceptions to the rule, but the rule is that we graduate from high school, move to new homes and new cities, start university or venture overseas and that original circle of girlfriends starts to look a lot less like a circle. Four years later and those nineteen BFFs have slowly whittled down to maybe six or eight young women who have realised that expectations are a lot higher in your twenties – including the ones we have for our friendships.

You’re at university, first semester comes and goes and eleven weeks have passed since you had a face-to-face conversation with an old friend. Or you find yourself settling into a new job using all of your energy to nurture new work-colleague relationships that will be crucial to surviving this fresh hell, and the remainder of your energy is spent on burgeoning romances or the temperamental relationship with your parents who you’ve moved back in with in an attempt to undo the financial damage of two years spent eating and drinking your way around Europe.

It’s understandable and it makes a lot sense, but as women we are so damn good at beating ourselves up about it. Convincing ourselves that if we had only tried harder, done more, then it wouldn’t have happened. And that is crap. You can’t be all things to all people. You can’t be a Carrie to everyone – or even a Samantha. You can’t be a Monica Geller or a Marnie Michaels to nineteen people in your twenties. And those six or eight young women who are still in your life, that never left your back pocket, are the same young women who have carried you through devastating breakups, deaths of family members, an unpredictable job market and all the other pressures associated with your newly found ‘adult status’. They are your In Case Of Emergency.

They might be a friend you made in the last year when you bonded over a shared experience or they might be one of the original nineteen who cried with you as you marched out of the school hall one last time. They might live right around the corner or they might live in another country but when you catch up over dinner it’s as if no time has passed. They can still read your mind and know you better than your parents do.

My friend and I were discussing this idea the other night and we found a rather blunt way of summing it up: If your mum or dad were to die tomorrow, who would turn up at your house unannounced? Who would jump in their car or on the next flight to be there immediately, no questions asked?

If you are lucky enough to have a few names come to mind, be grateful for those people. Nurture those friendships and nurture them hard. Be vocal about your gratitude for them.

Because often when you figure out who your In Case Of Emergency girlfriends are, is usually around the same time Life will throw you something that makes you need them.