I Made the Deepest Friendships in My 30s. Now I Question All My Others
I moved to a different continent for a boyfriend — the relationship didn't last, but I made the strongest friendships.
One of the hardest parts of moving to Australia for a new boyfriend was saying goodbye to the friendships I’d spent almost three decades building, cultivating, and relying upon. Like many people in their late twenties, I’d been through it all with my friends: heartbreak, death, divorce, and the trials and tribulations of school, university, and adulthood.
I had friends from when I was too young to know what friendship actually meant, those left over from primary school, the girls that formed my group of best friends at school, a smattering from university, and the more recent friends I had met while I cut my teeth in the often vacuous world of PR in my early twenties.
Saying goodbye to all of them before boarding a one-way plane to Sydney was gut-wrenching.
We’re often told by society that the most important friendships are those formed in the earlier stages of life. In fact, in her book Friendship: The Evolution, Biology and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond, journalist Lydia Denworth describes our 30s as “the decade where friendship goes to die.”
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There’s also research to back up Denworth’s claims. The National Library of Medicine, who analyzed the social patterns of 177,000 people and found that friendship groups expand until approximately the age of 25, at which point, they start to contract dramatically.
And so it was that I found myself on the brink of turning thirty, heartbroken, humiliated, and homesick in the wake of moving to Sydney for a man I barely knew (which, surprisingly enough – didn’t work out)). I was as geographically far away as possible from the friends that would usually hold my hands through the misery.
What I didn’t expect was for the new friends I had made in Australia to rally around me in the way that they did. That I would find myself confiding in them in a way that belied the amount of time we had known each other. That they would give me a reason to stay in Sydney despite returning home being the easiest – and most appealing – solution to my woes.
Over the years that have passed since moving to Sydney, I’ve mad friendships with people from all walks of life whose depth and strength would become akin to the friends I had known and loved for decades back home. Someone I met in passing in my yoga studio would become my go-to confidant, the sister of a boy I met on the beach felt like someone that I had known forever.
The distance from home, and living through a global pandemic fortified friendships in a way I never knew possible — and it taught me that often the length of a friendship doesn’t determine its strength.
I’m lucky to have kept in close and regular contact with most of my friends back in the UK. I know that while distance may separate us, our shared history often feels stronger than ever. Simultaneously, my friends down under don’t know my parents, will never have my landline memorized or be privy to the embarrassing crushes I had as a teen. But the shared experience of being on foreign soil and living so far away from our families has helped cultivate friendships stronger than I ever would have imagined.
It’s widely believed that we need different friendships to support different areas of our lives – whether intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. And if we are most heavily impacted by the five people we spend the most time with – as British anthropologist Robin Dunbar has claimed – then it makes sense to diversify our friendship circle, whatever your stage of life.
My diverse and wide-ranging friendship are a reminder that life is long, and rich and winding; they serve as a souvenir of the places I’ve been and the chances I’ve taken. And just as there are endless life experiences waiting to be had, so too are there many rich and rewarding friendships to make along the way.