The Future of Friendship

Madigan Chandler
4 min readSep 20, 2021

It’s a gorgeous fall day in the high desert mountains and I’m at an 8 year old’s birthday party where I know most people by the roles they play in the birthday boy’s life, but not to have a conversation of any depth. Post pandemic me is almost allergic to small talk and I float around resistant to the point of irritability to not have to put on my shine face and engage. The kids are happy and running in the woods. My teenage son wanders through finding his place at the grill helping cook, completely abandoning his recent commitment to being too anxious to leave the house. He’s the eldest kid and also the youngest adult, which highlights my own generational gap between these millennial parents and the grandparents. My gaze is drawn to my three friends, like flowers in the field as I look out. They are each engaged separately in conversations, everyone is smiling. I see them. I know their struggles and their thoughts and imagine how they got up and got dressed while caring for littles, being exhausted from school, swimming in the usual self doubt. And I feel a magnetic pull to each of them. What is recognition, Alex, for $200?

It takes me a little by surprise as I’ve made these friends just in the last 5 years, in my 40’s and long past when one makes new deep and heart centered connections. And yet here they are. Without the shared context of my past life, my divorce, my heroic phases, my enormous failures and me without knowing their youth, and childhoods. They were party girls and I missed that, just as well. I couldn’t have survived another decade of that in my life. We share this moment and this time and yet, it’s deep. It surprises me because it ‘counts’ just as deeply as my life long pals and connections. Just as much as friendships that are far more weathered.

My mind recognizes a discernable system of pathways that we will follow. A series of memories in the future of us standing in a waiting room of a hospital, gathered around a car having the last conversation with whichever of us is headed out and away, the group texts and gatherings for funerals, kids graduations, marriages, an elusive Friday night bottle of wine that we swear we should do more often and never do.

Context is big, but not everything, and yet I’m aware that underlying our very different styles, ages, and lifepaths, we do share what it takes to work with, but more importantly, see and care for the very most marginalized who walk among us. Working for sometimes corrupt, often dysfunctional, and always desperately low resourced non profits helping disconnected kids, connected us to one another and to our own inner disconnected kid.

We share that and the associated values that come with navigating deep need, prioritizing human suffering, and being ever so creative with morals and ethics to get what those kids need.

It’s work, it was a job, but it’s a tie that makes for a deep and comfortable bond between us. We share the experienced knowledge of just what we are willing and able to do for other humans and the shared grit and personal honor runs deep.

And here we have all of these young humans running around, cutting cake, do you want a burger or a hotdog? Just enjoying one another’s kids and their sweet faces. No rosy glasses, we all know we go home to our inner chaos, doubts, and dirty dishes. And within that framework, we share a certain sisterhood of badassery as well as the perspective that we are lucky. Oh so so lucky to watch the kids be kids. I wonder if these women know how special they are? Is it hubristic of me to feel that I have that perspective? Seeing them for their incredible natures through the diaphanous layer of normalcy that fools us into thinking we belong to some homogenous world of motherly self doubt and generic shared experiences.

As much as I know that aging and transitions will be bittersweet, I am heartened and comforted that I will share sweet and intermittent moments with these women. How glad am I that they welcomed me in? I have boxes and wrapping paper, but have yet to figure out how to present to them what I see in each of them as significant and important.

In a world full of sameness, doubt, and seeming futureless struggle, the specialness and light I see in my pals are what keep me going.

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Madigan Chandler

Psychotherapist, mother, walker, swimmer, lover, and aspiring good friend