Brand building through storytelling

Friends no matter what

The great joy of my student days was a tribe of smart, funny friends. Whatever my social impulse of the moment, I knew where to go for instant gratification. Pub crawls got started in the cafeteria, over the remains of soggy shepherd’s pie. Music fever always lured me to Mike’s room, a community listening post strewn with obscure soul and blues LPs. To vent about my love life, I’d head to the downstairs kitchen, where someone always had the kettle on.

We all lived in the same world then. We were looking for two things, love and adventure. It never crossed my mind that finding love could restrict my adventures, let alone my friendships. Then in my third year, I met my husband, married him and suddenly found myself pregnant. Next thing I knew, I was home alone with my nose in the parenting books (Why, why won’t my baby stop crying?) while my footloose friends gathered at the pub to plan backpacking trips through Europe.

Nobody called me. Well, almost nobody. My friend Mandy rang about a project on new mothers for her child development course. Could she interview me? I practically begged her to come the next day, and met her at the door with a special treat—a plate of chocolate wafers. Mandy took notes while I confessed that I had never felt so lonely in my life; then she hurried off to class. “Come by anytime,” I called as she vanished for good. She preferred her own world, the one I’d left behind.

Looking back on my life as a friend, I’m struck by how effortless it felt when my confidantes and I lived or worked side by side. My career-building years, like my student days, seemed a golden age of shared discoveries and revelatory conversations. My colleagues cheered me up when my son got in trouble at school; I returned the favour when they ran afoul of our boss. Then the moment came for one of us to move on, and we couldn’t get together unless we booked lunch two weeks in advance. Often we found we had nothing to talk about except contempt for the office diva.

A shared world makes a decent starting point for a friendship, but what really counts is bridging the different worlds that friends inhabit over time. Friends fall in and out of love, move up (or out) at work. They welcome new babies, they send almost-grown kids off to school. Like a good marriage, the good friendship bends and expands to accommodate life’s transitions. I still look forward to girls’ nights with a friend from my first job. In those days she seemed much like me—another frazzled young mother with a messy desk and an irreverent take on the obsessions that ruled the office.

Now what intrigues me is the differences between us. She’s a just-do-it type; I reflect and deliberate. She settled quickly and comfortably into marriage with husband number three; I made all my mistakes with one guy and eventually realized how lucky I was to have found him. She’s a cancer survivor; I’ve been perfectly healthy so far. (If that changes, she’ll be my inspiration.) Driving home from work in the middle of her chemotherapy sessions, she used to whip off her wig (too hot, she said) and sing along with the CD player.

Our paths keep intersecting. Encouraged by the same mentor, we held big jobs at the same time and left those jobs within months of each other (she became an academic; I became a full-time writer). We’ve been each other’s best colleague and toughest competitor; now we’re free to be simply and gratefully friends, catching up over pasta and wine. We listen to each other without judging, as we’ve done ever since she first wandered into my office with a work-related question that turned into a heart-to-heart about life and love.

And by listening, I’ve discovered that she’s not the same woman anymore. She’s stronger, wiser and more interesting. That makes two of us.

First published in Chatelaine, October 2005 as “Making Friends.” Copyright Rona Maynard.

Posted by Rona

Leave a Reply

Stay up-to-date with Rona.

To see what’s on my mind these days, friend me on Facebook.

Miss my old site?

Visit the archive to find your favorite blog posts and Chatelaine editorials or browse my published articles. Sorry, I’m not blogging anymore.