I left the workforce last week. As I was thinking about the ways this will change my life, I realized that I won’t be required to spend time with specific people for eight hours a day, a couple of times a week. I have no obligation to leave the house and be within conversation range of other adults for any amount of time. If I want maintain friendships with the people I’ve come to know over the last eight years of my life, I’ll have to do it on purpose.
Workplace friendships aren’t like other friendships. At work, you see people at their best and worst, their most genuine and most fake, their most stressed and most exhausted. You see all these sides of a person and you stick with them anyway. You support each other, no matter what. Because you have to.
As I was thinking about how some of my friendships with coworkers will largely take place over Facebook and text messages in the future, I realized that this is currently true of most of my friendships. Between childhood friends moving away, college friends moving away, and adulthood friends being stuck in a never-ending lockdown, I don’t really see anyone in person anymore. I’m finding myself having to work to maintain friendships.
That’s always true of some friendships. Some friends live far away, and it’s always an intentional effort to stay in touch. Some friends live nearby, and in a normal year, I let things slide a bit because I know I’ll see them around soon enough. Work friendships largely take care of themselves, as we’re going to be in the same place, at the same, multiple days a week, until one of us quits: We couldn’t drift apart if we tried.
Now, with my exit from the workforce, and with the province enforcing social distancing, all of my friendships will have to be intentional. Ugh, effort.
I’m an introvert. Going out of my way to interact with people goes against my nature. But I will fight my nature on this one. Friendships are important. We need friends. We need people with whom we can laugh, cry, face challenges, recover from hardships, and work through our thoughts and feelings.
I’m not great at intentionally maintaining friendships, but this is a skill at which I will try to improve. This year of social distancing, and quitting my job, has really helped me cherish my friendships, and has enforced the need to make time for ‘scheduled maintenance’ when it comes to friendships. Sometimes friendships start easily. Sometimes they can coast for quite a while. But if a friendship is going to last, it needs intentional effort.