I was reading a book by business writer and nice guy Daniel Pink. It’s called “When,” and it talks cites a bunch of studies about the best times to do things…from scheduling big meetings to delivering bad news.
It’s a cool book – well, Daniel Pink is a cool guy and yes, I have actually met him. In fact, I may do a whole thing on this book in the future, but for now, I want to focus on one part.
So, in one part of the book, Pink says we have three stages of life…the launch, which gets us from childhood to young adulthood; the harsh reality stage, when life slams us with setbacks and sadness, along with some triumphs. And, finally, the final bittersweet stage.
That last stage starts around age 60 or so.
And the scientists found that the last stage is a time in which the number of friends drops.
You might think that’s sad, but you have to look more closely at the data from the researchers – and they are from the Washington University in St. Louis and Stanford University, in case that kind of thing matters to you. Anyway, these researchers say that it’s not that older people lose friends. It’s more that they EDIT friends. Because there are friends and then there are FRIENDS.
First, there are the kinds of friends who are like family. The womb-to-tomb kind of friends. Those friends, we keep. And, then there are the other friends. The Facebook friends. The nod-to-at-the-grocery friends. The friends you only see at yoga class. Those friends? We start to shed them like a snake sheds its skin.
And it’s not just that these friends drift away. We actively delete them. The researchers say the closer we get to the end of life, the more we narrow in to what’s really important in friendships, and that means fewer, but deeper, friendships.
Interestingly, this phenomenon was true for any ending, not just the end of life. End a job? Suddenly your lunch companion isn’t around anymore, and that’s fine. Graduate? Your study buddy isn’t on speed dial. It’s natural.
I did an episode of my podcast, Keep it Juicy!, on decluttering recently. It’s all about getting rid of the stuff that brings you down and doesn’t bring you joy. If you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it. Don’t be the family caretaker of all the memories. Stuff isn’t people, so have a yard sale.
All of that makes sense.
Except when it doesn’t.
Now, maybe I haven’t reached that final stage yet. I’m not quite 60, although I can certainly see it waiting around the corner.
And I’m not talking about when you finally fire a toxic friend…actually, I did a whole thing about when you need to fire a friend.
So, no, I’m not talking about the kinds of “frenemies” that you need to get rid of, pronto, no matter what stage of your life you’re in.
I moved to a city where I don’t know anyone. If I didn’t want to stay inside the house staring at my husband – and he would have started making references to The Shining after Day One – I had to meet people. I had to make new friends.
I can’t say they are my soulmates like Liz, my very best friend from college days. But they are fun, I care about these people, and they end our dates with “I love you,” so there’s at least some mutual affection.
I’ve been here for about five years. And maybe I just got in the habit, but I still feel that every new person I meet could be a friend. I still get excited when I click with a new person and we make a date to get coffee. I’m not editing, I’m adding.
I like to think of it as building up a valuable collection.
And I don’t feel like these friendships clutter up my life or that I need to edit them.
I’m like a magpie, collecting soft things for my nest. Not every friendship is going to meet every need. But someday, some quirky emotion will have me pulling a particular friendship out of the nest and it will be just exactly what I need right then.