As I get older, I’m beginning to realize that one thing that will constantly change as an adult is your group of friends. Changes in your life, location, family, etc. all lead to an ever-evolving social group. People come, people go, people get “voted off the island”. It’s all part of this adulting thing that some of us have been forced into. But when I think about my real friends, they often times aren’t always the people around me. They are the people I grew up with. I think the friends that we have through our “formative” years are the most important and the very best friends that we will ever have, and here is why:
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The “Formative” Years
Most people consider our “formative” years to be the years where we really become who we are as a person. That weird combination of nature and nurture and all of the external stimuli that mold our impressionable little psyches into the person we are. Now, some experts claim that the “formative” years are the first few years of your life, because this is the very basic foundation of development. I personally think your “formative” years don’t end until you are at least 30. Somewhere in the middle is that whole pre-pubescent to adolescent to teenager period of time that often times has the biggest impact on who we turn out to be as adults. For some people it is grade school, for others, it can be the first couple of years of college. Think back to your childhood friends and think about how many “firsts” you experienced together. First concerts, first loves, first anything. No matter what you consider the definition of “formative” years to be, the people that go through these years by your side are some of the biggest influences on you, and you on them. This mutual impact is what forges life-long friendships.
Let’s face it, the people that grew up with you know way more about you than your friends you just met last year. You may be all straight-laced and business-like today, but your friends who you grew up with have seen you at your grittiest. Whether it was your elementary school friend who found out the hard way that you were a bed wetter until you were 12, or your college roommate who saw/heard the scandalous things you did after a night of drinking. And you know the same things about them. That level of knowledge builds a level of trust that is on par with the “mutually assured destruction” theory of nuclear armament.
Time or Distance isn’t a Factor
On thing, that really proves that your childhood friends are the best friends you will have, is that even as you grow up and apart from each other – that friendship never changes. We all have that childhood friend who we haven’t talked to in a decade that could show up at our front door right now, and it would be a blessing. Yet we have acquaintances in our lives, who if we go a week without seeing, we get upset at for not staying in touch. There is no distance or span of time that can come between our real friends.
A big part of the first three things I’ve listed here is the unspoken, yet seemingly tangible bond you have with these friends. Again, this comes from those “formative” years and experiences. You see the same results from men and women who have served together in the military. That is because the military, in and of itself, is a “formative” experience just like school was when you were a kid. You walk into a new place with a bunch of total strangers, and as you’re broken down and put back together with each other, you all form – together. That bond that you have with the people that you go through those types of formative processes with is unlike any bond you’ll have with any other friend.
Watching Each Other “Grow”
The reason that the bond between you and the friends that you have while growing up is so important is because “growing” has nothing to do with age. Your friends that went through those formative years with you know you both as who you were and who you became. Knowing who you were is what will always separate them from your other friends, and vice versa. Your new friends will never be able to be able to look back with pride and say “wow, I remember who he/she was, and I am proud to see who they have become.” I have a childhood friend who is a very successful attorney who, while growing up, was way more likely to have needed a lawyer than to become one. Your friends see those same changes and feel that same pride in you because they knew who you were before, and have become a part of who you are now.