It can be really hard to believe that it’s possible to have 12 close friends at the age of 30. And yet our wedding day proved to be a great celebration of friendship and what it takes to build and celebrate connections that last a lifetime.
Long time no post, huh? I know what you’re thinking. Matt’s married now so that means it’s time for him to disappear off the face of the planet and to never be heard from again. In truth, we did do that for a while on our honeymoon in The Land of The Long White Cloud (New Zealand), and it was great.
But alas, a far greater tragedy struck as this site was hacked before and/or during the wedding and/or during the honeymoon, meaning I have spent the last few weeks trying to regain access to my site. This post of course marks the successful recovery of the site and the ability to log in as usual.
Of course, it also marks the first post after one of the most amazing, expensive, beautiful, stressful, blissful, and confronting days of one’s life. And that, my friends, is the wedding day.
It was a really great day. Truly. My wife looked amazing (and still does). It was a great turnout. We had a wonderful day in Toowoomba the week before The Carnival Of Flowers, meaning we had all of the flowers set up, but none of the crowds. We got some great photos, had some great memories, and marked a brilliant start to our new life together.
And the honeymoon was equally brilliant. We went to Auckland, Hamilton, Matamata, Christchurch, caught the Transalpine Rail, Moana, Twizel, Mount Cook, Lake Tekapo, and the best place in New Zealand… Lake Pukaki .
And while I was away, whilst I wasn’t participating in any communications with the outside world, I did still occasionally check my social media while we were away. And what was the most interesting, striking, provoking, and kinda sad post that I kept seeing reshared while I was away was this one:
Whilst being of “religious” origins, I saw this shared across all the major pop sites, the restaurants posting memes to keep their feed current, the celebrities going for 3000 Haha reacts a day, and more real for me, a number of people I know.
Adding to the substantial list of changes I’ve undergone this year, I recently turned 30. Most of my friends are around my age, and a significant number of them were present for our wedding. And so, having had such a massive celebration with a large number of friends, it was very striking for me to see the reality check that many people were laughing about that was put forward by this meme.
And that is that it gets harder and harder for people to have 12 close friends (or more) in their 30s. Or older.
And as I often do, I thought for a long time about this reality in people’s lives. It was quite amazing to see how many people – even really, really “popular” people – could relate to what this meme was suggesting. I saw friends I knew who had thousands of followers and would go out every weekend with large groups who would still post their agreement and sorrowful relatability with what was being put forward here.
So, let’s talk about it. Why is it that you may agree that it is a miracle for someone to have 12 close friends (or more) at and beyond 30?
#1: Less energy
I was at a buck’s party in the last few months which had most of the men present falling asleep around 8:30pm. 8:30pm. A bucks party. Thankfully there were a few guys there who were still able to wake everyone else up, but it was a sharp reminder to me of how much less energy people have as they get older.
Part of that is really a reality of getting older. Some people require additional hours sleep, others have to review diet and exercise routines, still others have developed conditions where they just don’t have the energy they used to (more on that later).
But the harsher part of that is that having less energy means you have less hours to give to people. And unfortunately it also means that the hours you do give people may be less focused, less intentional, and less meaningful than they should. Friendships require a lot of time and intentionality, and they don’t often survive prolonged periods of half-hearted effort.
#2: More competing priorities
The mortgage, the kids, the parents, the siblings, the cousins, the bank, the financial planner, the personal trainer, the professional development, the sex life, the time for rest and relaxation… oh, and somewhere, somehow, time for friends.
Life is seasonal, and many seasons come with new or changed priorities. As a married man, especially in the earlier days, but even as life goes on, my wife has to come first. One day when I’m a parent, my kids will also require top billing. There are many other types of life change that bring about a new set of priorities.
Usually the first thing people do and have to do is reevaluate what is important to them, and usually their friendships are the first to either go completely or suffer silently until they dwindle away.
If you want people to make you a priority, you need to make them a priority. And you might be okay with your current time allocations for your friendships, but one day, when life gets hard, when your key relationships are under strain or challenge, when your finances aren’t so hot, when your prayer life and personal discipline is dwindling, you will need your village around you to get you through.
I’ve seen it too many times where people wait for absolute calamity before they go, “Oh yeah, my friends”. By then, it’s usually too late, and the connections that once thrived and were a source of life are not there anymore. Don’t let it happen to you.
#3: The way you’ve used social media
You know, there’s nothing like a wedding to really challenge and push the buttons on all your key relationships. Doing our various guest lists and working out who to invite was one of the most challenging parts of our wedding. There were so, so many people we wished we could have fit in to the ceremony, and even more we wished we could have at our reception (without starting our married life in massive debt from a 450 seat reception), and it really was a challenge to get it right.
But a remarkable finding during this time was the people who had completely dropped off the grid. We had once known them, or known them well, but no one has seen them or heard from them in months. And a lot of the time this was reflected in their treatment of social media.
“Wait a minute, can’t you be friends with someone without a Facebook account?”
You absolutely can. But keep in mind that dogging or completely being absent from social media is the modern day equivalent of unplugging your phone. Most people now organise their events, do their head counts, send their messages, co-ordinate various groups, and even plan their entire social calendar using social media.
When you can’t be messaged, when no one knows why you’ve suddenly disappeared, when people are left wondering what the mysterious unfriending was about, your use of social media is dampening your friendships. It can send a really serious message to people that you don’t care and you’re not interested. Actions and words. What message are you sending people?
Here’s a nasty one that increases as people get older – illness. It’s hard to keep up 12 close friends, 10 close friends – heck, even 3 close friends – when you’re always sick. If you’re too unwell to turn up to things every single time, it becomes harder and harder for people to invite you to things and count on you being there every single time.
Many people with illness take it as a personal rejection when their sickness is in the way of having the social life they want. You also would need to understand then that constantly falling back on your sickness as a hindrance also causes people to feel similar levels of rejection.
It is possible to have and maintain great relationships through sickness. Our digital world is amazing. We had some of our closest friends get to chat with us during our reception because they were overseas. Our financial planner is walking us through our new life often remotely. I’ve worked in multiple software teams where half the team isn’t even in the same suburb or city. We have an innumerable number of ways to stay connected and work around issues of physical presence where necessary.
The key is making sure people feel as though they are as valuable to you as you keep saying they are.
#5: Lack of followthrough
Something that sucked about our wedding – being rather candid here – was the number of people who said they’d turn up, and didn’t… and also didn’t say anything further about it. Obviously, things come up, emergencies happen, double booking occurs, but when you say yes, and magically don’t appear or say anything about your non-appearance, it leaves people with a lot of question marks.
You don’t even have to be running a wedding to relate to that. How difficult it is when you’re trying to build and maintain great friendships when the other party promises more than their actions demonstrate.
I know it’s funny to laugh at memes about thinking you’ve messaged someone back but you’ve only done so in your head, but it’s probably not funny to that person. It might not be a big deal to you that you didn’t feel like being social that weekend, but it might be a big deal to the person who wanted to see you, or at least hear from you.
#6: The failure of autopilot
Friendships aren’t automatic, but much of life makes you feel like it is. When you have high levels of commonality, it can be super easy to stay on top of certain friendships. When you were in the same high school studying the same things and eating lunch at the same time, it was all too easy to have regular great conversations. When you were both studying at uni, you could still stop by the common eating places and hang out. When you were at the same church or job, you could just catch up in the hallway or kitchen.
But having 12 close friends at 30 isn’t so much autopilot as it is intentionality. And having those common scenarios may have masked the reality of what you were doing. You were intentionally choosing to use your time to spend time with these people, even if it felt like all you were doing was packing up your laptop or finishing off building that fence at the job site. Now that you’re older and life becomes more disparate from the life of others, you have to find and build commonality with those friends as much as you can.
I think you could say this about anything in life, but as Zig Ziglar said well, “If you want it, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse”.
And the reason you probably don’t have the friendships you want? You probably just don’t care enough about them. I know you have feelings and wishes, but your actions, timetable, and consistency of choice over the course of years will reveal the truth.
And if your consistent choices reveal that you care about people and the value of your friendships, you won’t ever question who your close friends are.
But if you’ve been lazy with people, uncaring during their times of trouble, nonchalant about their special days or achievements, if you’ve been and maintained sustained periods of distance and silence, don’t be surprised that you look around one day and you can’t see anyone.
What you sow is what you reap. Like the gardener who plants a seed today and eventually sees it grow into the fullness of what he planted and the way he looked after it, so too we will one day see revealed the fullness of what our actions have wrought.
What will grow in 5 years time in your life from the decisions you’re making today?
There’s probably heaps more I could have (and have) written on the top of having 12 friends (or more) in your 30s, or any point in your life, really. But I think that having a tight circle of people, a village of supporters who champion you and believe in you, is not so much a miracle as it is a consequence of choice.
Kristy and I were so humbled and blown away by our wedding day. As much as it was a celebration of our love, it was also a celebration of friendship. How blessed we are to have been afforded the privilege of knowing so many brilliant people. Even beyond those who could attend our wedding, I regularly look through my phone contacts, my co-workers, my social media connections, and the people I see regularly, and really feel humbled by the greatness of these people.
But we realize that it’s our choice with what we’re going to do with them. And I hope you will realize too, that having 12 close friends (or more) in your 30s is really much more achievable and sustainable than you might think. Jesus, who the meme was about, wasn’t a man of apathy or distance, but a man of openness and consistency. He saw the reward of close friendships (except Judas… boy, there’s so much that could be said on that one, maybe another day), and I hope you do too.
Ps. Now the site is back and happy, look forward to the return of regular posts. As always, follow on Facebook and keep sending your messages, feedback, and suggestions for future posts!