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Nov 9, 2023·edited Nov 10, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Hi! I have a personal story about an unconventional/deliberate housing situation that I've shared in the Culture Study comments before. My partner and I lived in New York until 2021. A week before we were supposed to move into a new house, a tree fell on it and literally *cut it in half*. Coincidentally, my brother, who owns a two-flat in Chicago, had his upstairs tenants moving out that very same week. So, my partner and I packed what we could in the trunk of our tiny car, placed everything else in a storage unit, put our 65 lb dog in the backseat (on a lot of anxiety meds!), and drove halfway across the country to stay in their totally unfurnished upstairs unit while we figured out alternative housing in NYC. Turns out, living above my brother and his wife, who are both my best friends, and their dog-who is my dog's best friend-was the happiest situation I'd ever found myself in, bar none. I spent a whole summer alternating between crying about the idea of leaving, and panicking about the idea of totally changing the direction of our lives and staying. Two years later, we're still here, but now we have furniture. My dog and my brother's dog go back and forth up and down between apartments all day. We hang out casually and constantly - we pop in to say hi, run up/downstairs to grab a coke, play crosswords by screencasting the NYT app from the ipad onto the flatscreen, and share friends and a social life. It was the scariest thing in the world deciding to stay, but it feels like the closest thing to utopia I'll ever know.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I moved in with my best friend and her husband in March of 2020, because the thought of a couple of months (HAH!) of isolation in a small studio apartment was unbearable. Three years later, we're still here and still like each other. It's pretty great.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I also moved in with good friends (who are married to each other) in April 2020 and lived there for six months. I have so many happy memories from that weird scary time. Loved that communal living

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I did this during summer 2020, except it was me moving in with my partner and his roommate. I was scared my partner's roommate would feel like a third wheel, or that I would feel like a third wheel with them, but it turned out great. We ended up moving out when the lease ended cuz there were other leases that had already been signed, but I could definitely see us all living together again in the future.

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Lurker alert — I remember reading this comment the first time you posted and thinking to myself what a lovely story it was and which of my friends I could co-exist with like this. I'm so happy to hear it's continuing to be a great situation for all of you!

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This is utterly beautiful and I'm so happy for you!

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Nov 9, 2023·edited Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I would love for there to be some discussion (maybe a chapter?) about the real ways that long-distance (especially online) friendships can be real and important...but how they're insufficient. I feel like people either view them as a replacement for in-the-flesh friendships, which they can never be, or dismiss them altogether as unimportant. Anything that treats both their strengths and weaknesses seriously would be appreciated.

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YES ABSOLUTELY THIS!

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Nov 9, 2023·edited Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Hard second on this one. I'd love to see an exploration of what it takes to strengthen both types of friendships, because both are valid and nurture us in different ways. But I have found that the strongest online friendships occur when you've made the time/had the privilege to meet in person--ideally, on the regular.

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Love this!!! Most of my closest friends are long-distance and will be for the forseeable future. It's incredibly nourishing and amazing, and it takes a lot of work and energy; and still requires folks living in the same place as me to fill other needs.

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So much this! For me most of my long distance friends now were once proximate from earlier phases of life. Realizing that much though I love them, living 1000+ miles away meant they couldn’t just hang out on a week night or pick me up some NyQuil when I was sick was so frustrating. So I came to realize both are super important: the forever friends b/c you love them and will try hard to remain connected no matter where they live or what they’re doing, AND the people who live in your current place. All my happiest periods as an adult have included both. But finding the time to keep up with the old and add to the new as I’ve moved around has been tough. I think the lack of in person, on location friends at the beginning is the very hardest part of each new move. So having the old ones to at least call and remember I’m loved can be vitally important.

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So much this! And also how long-distance friendships are so part of our culture now. Most of my close friends are scattered across the country, either because we were together at one point in our lives (i.e. college and then we moved on to wherever) or because we met online through shared interests. I've been really noticing in the past year or so how few IRL "good" friendships I have, which is partly a stage-of-life thing, but also because it seems like people are so much more mobile now. Some very close friends of ours recently moved across the country just because they wanted to--and we miss them but also good for them!--but that kind of flexibility (in terms of work especially) just didn't exist in the past.

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This is a good one. I also think online friendships are the best some people can get with how things are...for instance bc of disability or finances, etc.I think the more voice chat or zooms the better if possible.

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I had this thought recently when I realized the only time I feel 100 % present is when I’m hiking with my local best friend. I talk to my long distance best friend daily but I’m often multitasking or calling her while I’m doing something.

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I actually studied this as part of my master's degree research! I am fascinated by long-distance friendships and what makes them work.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

An interesting topic could be "emergency contacts." As parents age and without close friends it's hard to know who to use an an emergency contact.

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I have exactly this problem. I'm approaching 60, and I'm an only child of an only child. My parents are long gone, I'm unpartnered, and I have no offspring. I have friends, but asking a friend to be my emergency contact feels like placing a unnecessary burden on them.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I am the emergency contact for a couple friends without super local people and it is not a burden. I promise.

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I would always love to be a friend’s emergency contact and am also PoA for some. You aren’t burdening us by asking, you’re showing us how much you care and trust us by asking us to be such an important thing to you.

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Being asked to be my cousin’s emergency contact was one of my proudest moments to date. She thinks I’m responsible and would care and show up and help out in an emergency. So so flattering!

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I second what Annie said before me. I am the emergency contact for some friends and some of my friend's kids as well and visa versa.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

this is so true. i recently reported a story about the uptick of scams targeting seniors and its connection to the loneliness epidemic. the elder law attorneys i interviewed said that their senior clients continuously don't have someone to appoint to POA and healthcare proxy roles. one attorney told me this is a recent trend -- in the past, her clients did not have much trouble finding loved ones to fill these roles.

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Yes, so true!! Before my Mom ended up moving to the same city as me, I had these conversations with friends! In return, friends sometimes listed me as emergency contact for their own kiddos because as a single person without kids, I am potentially more available in a true emergency like an earthquake or to pick up their kids!

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Oh, this is such a good one! And Anne has written before about "drive you to medical appointments" friends, who have to be nearby (vs. emergency contact could be farther away and phone-able...)

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And Medical Power of Attorney. I'm not married to my long time partner (we live in two different countries, and immigration is complicated because of my health), so my best friend has a lot of legal powers that would otherwise automatically devolve to my spouse or relatives.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

If I could wish any book into existence right now, it would be “Bowling Alone meets Big Friendship, written by Anne Helen Petersen.” I’m beyond excited. Do good work! ❤️

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Yes, I don't know that I have anything to add except that I am SO looking forward to this book and I truly hope (and believe!) it will be a great resource for those of us who long for community!

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I would read the f**k outta that! I can't wait for AHP's new book!

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

love this!!! I have a bit of an unconventional housing situation, which I feel SO lucky to have found. My roommate of 5 years took a new job in a different city, which meant I had to move because I live in a very expensive coastal city, but affording my own place felt daunting and I really didn’t want another roommate.

Over the years, I made friends with some neighbors, whose family bought their property 50 years ago when they immigrated from Cuba. They made it a multi-family lot and there’s 6 units with a shared yard. They invited me to live in one of the (rent controlled!!) units once they found out I needed a place! I watch their 10 year old daughter when they need help, I have two Tias on either side of me in their 80s who teach me Spanish, and all of our dogs are best friends. We help each other out, have shared meals, and drink wine and play games on Sunday.

I feel so lucky to have an affordable place to live, with a yard, in a very expensive city, and an inherited family too!

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AUDREY, THIS IS AMAZING, I am absolutely going to email you

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Please do! :)

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This might not be in scope, but I think there are interesting overlaps with ideas about "placefulness" (ie Jenny O'Dell's How to Do Nothing) for this topic—or at least, for me they occupy the same space in my mind. I think it ties into the finding community question you already posed, but I'm also curious about how we find community with non-human aspects of our experience (especially nature). Sometimes knowing the names of the native plants on a hike can genuinely feel like saying hello to a friend, for instance. Or knowing your way around a city without google maps, even. Maybe these are just things that help us feel more rooted and capable of reaching out and putting effort into human relationships? Or maybe it's just about shrinking your world down to a manageable human size and then existing in it. So excited for the book!

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Ooh I love this point. I think in a lot of ways, I feel more community through my non-human neighbors and my local geography (metro area where I've lived my whole life) than through my human neighbors. Not that I'm particularly isolated, but maybe these ecological/spatial relationships have felt easier, especially during and since COVID? I want more human community, I just haven't quite figured out how to do it yet beyond one-off friendships.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I suspect you are already thinking of this, but I suggest that you talk to people who are part of faith communities, particularly non-evangelical ones (they are just SO overrepresented when we talk about faith and in particular Christianity) - I am a member of a very progressive, medium-sized urban Methodist church and we have been focused - for years but in particular since the pandemic - on loneliness and how to combat it. When I read stories about the loneliness epidemic I often reflect that my faith community solves for me so many of the problems that contribute to feeling lonely. For example, I have little kids, but through church I am close friends with people who don't have kids, who have kids of all ages, and who are of many generations. We support each other with meals, care packages, cards, and just being there through big life moments. I know that faith is very fraught for many people, but when operated as judgment-free spaces as mine is these communities can really do a lot to combat loneliness.

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I think "worship" is a super interesting avenue to explore. I have a "plant friend" community that often sort of feels like a very non-secular and implicit approach to spirituality. Some people are more ritualistic and pagan, most people aren't, but the roots of the community share a lot in common with nature worship. On a totally different note...Swifties and the Eras tour, which is basically a benign cult but fosters an incredible sense of belonging and love for those inside it, etc.

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Love this. Building on or connecting with Casper ter Kuile’s work in The Power of Ritual (excellent) would be great here.

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I apologize, I have to be That Person -- 'secular' means non-religious. (I know, it sounds like the opposite somehow!)

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It's interesting you point out how many places non-secular worship can go. And indeed I think it's going a lot of other places...especially since younger generations are less religiously affliliated.

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There's a comment from a wonderful reader in my piece about living near friends about how communities form in close walking distance to synagogues (and how that happened for her synagogue in particular, but for lots of others!)

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I moved out of Boston and into a small town/rural community in western Massachusetts in the Summer of 2022. Since leaving Catholic school in 6th grade, I haven't been active in any sort of church or faith tradition. In January of this year, I started attending a Unitarian Universalist weekly worship, and the intergenerational friends I have made there have opened SO MANY doors to local community building. It has been a total game changer.

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Similar experience for my husband and I. Both raised religious and disaffiliated. He started attending UU services this spring and it feels (tentatively) like a space to fill the hole left by leaving our old faith community but with theology/values we can also embrace. Glad you’re finding a home there.

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Sort of related to this, I think you might be interested in the work of Elizabeth Oldfield (morefullyalive.substack.com). She writes a lot about relationships and about sharing a home with another family (https://comment.org/the-friendship-contract/).

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

BRILLIANT, Anne!!

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OMG I can’t be the only person who sees your name commenting here and just thinks “holy sh*t, just THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.” Your courage and perseverance is so incredibly inspiring.

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>3 E. Jean

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In response to my book club (over a decade strong with 10 women, several of whom I've known since high school), my husband started a burger club! Once a month, he and 5 of the husbands of other women in the group meet up at a different local restaurant to "taste test" their burgers. Occasionally, they will go to one of each other's houses instead and grill burgers and make old fashioneds. At a time when it seems hard for him to find male friendship connection (we have a 1 and 3 year old and both work more than full-time), we are both so glad for this recurring gathering and a bonus newfound burger expertise. Three years strong and counting for them!

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

This is a needed study, particularly in two areas: male friendships, which in my view are not like women’s yet often depend on women’s; and the nature of professional careers at this time in history. The choices to be made are hellish: get the job and move to it, leaving communities already loved and cultivated, or stay and compromise hard-earned careers. I don’t know much about how things work in other nations,

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Question on male friendships: How frequently do men just call each other without any other activity? I've been thinking about how often it seems that free-form conversations between men need to be mediated by videogames or some other activity, as opposed to calling and catching up and letting the phone conversation be the primary activity.

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My husband is 51 and he grew up in a punk skater gang in Portland, Oregon in the 80s. He is still in touch with his four best friends from high school, who are scattered across the country. He talks to some of them every Sunday and some combination of the group gets together every year. They are a gorgeous demonstration of positive masculinity and it brings me joy thinking about their friendship and how they support each other.

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I’d agree. Some linguistic research suggests that men more often center such conversations on activities (sports, for example) while women talk about feelings, interpersonal experiences. This is of course not true of all individuals and can probably be expected to change as gender roles evolve, and as research paradigms develop.

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I’m a gay man, and my primary means of keeping in touch with female friends is to call them while I’m on a walk. But with most of my male friends, we either text or call while playing games together—and the thought of proposing to one of them that we call and just chat and do nothing else feels slightly uncomfortable.

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A (male) friend said the hardest part of the pandemic was losing his medium for relationships with men, I.e. sports. His primary connection to his dad was mediated through sports talk. It gave me a new appreciation for the complexity of all that.

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My husband (37) has a slew of friends he keeps in touch with via phone call. Far more than I do! I find if fascinating, but he's also the exception for men, not the norm.

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Yeah. In order to stay in my field, I've had to keep moving every few years and do the work of building new friendships each time, only to leave them behind (physically) just as they start to feel strong. It SUCKS and I'm ready to settle down in one place but also not sure how long it will take to make that happen.

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💯

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Yay!!! I identify as being on the ace spectrum and part of what that means to me is, in recognition of the fact that I will likely never find a long term romantic partner, moving to a city where I have a LOT of ‘middle circle’ friends - people I’d do a pub quiz with or go for a coffee with. I’ve been here for three months now and I’m loving it

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I'm another ace person who will probably always be single and is learning to prioritize friendship. It's an uphill battle (especially because most of my friends *are* partnered off and so don't feel the same urgency) but I am so glad to hear this strategy is working for you!!!

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Hi! I commented on Lily's post above too that I would really love to find community (online or irl) with other ace folks. Would you be open to connecting via email sometime? Mine is caryeverhames@gmail.com

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Emailed you!

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This is a bit off topic but I've recently come to the realization that I am on the ace spectrum, and I would really love to find community (online or irl) with other ace folks. Would you be open to connecting via email sometime? Mine is caryeverhames@gmail.com

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Not on email but I’m on insta @LilyMWrites and have a Substack newsletter here

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Nov 9, 2023·edited Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

My mom lives in a senior cohousing community here in Oakland which is very, very cool. It’s a condo building that was specifically designed for this purpose so it is also designed for aging in place.

They all have their own (small) condos, but there’s a TON of shared community space and things like one “extra” apartment that they all use on a rotating basis to house visiting family/friends (like a common guest room!). It’s all self-governed and they do a lot of intentional community things like big common meals 3x a week, etc.

I compare it to college where all your friends live in your dorm, but for the end of adult life instead of the beginning. It has also made it possible for my mom, as an unpartnered woman and former (underpaid!) social worker, to move to a HCOL area to be near me and my sister in her retirement. I can connect you with her, if you’d like. She loves to talk about it.

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I would love to learn more! I'm in Berkeley and we're just starting to plan ahead for retirement housing for my parents. What is the community called?

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Of course! It’s called Phoenix Commons.

https://phoenixcommons.com/

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

How about women being friends with their friends’ moms? As long as the mom isn’t a shitty person, I’ve found it’s a great way to connect and appreciate a different generation without being annoyed by your own mom, which is a thing. (I understand this is a privilege to have a mom that is both alive and “only” annoying). I have been both the friend of a mom and have friends that are close with my mom. I like it.

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I *love* my friends' moms (and now *my* mom lives down the street from my best friend!)

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Oh! I bought a house with friends during the pandemic! My husband and I were renting the bottom floor of an up-down duplex, and we ended up buying it with another couple we'd been friends with for years after the landlord died in 2020. We collaborate on home improvement projects and a somewhat unruly garden and do shabbat together almost every week. They're babysitting my kids tonight. I'd be happy to talk more about it!

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

I grew up without my extended family around, which means that my whole life technically is a series of stories of "nontraditional" family. I didn't have grandparents, I had everyone society treats as refuse: the LGBTQ+, the immigrants, the homeless punks, the sex workers, the disabled, the mentally ill, the abused... everyone society says has no place in a family. A flock of black sheep, grouping together to shelter and protect the weakest and the youngest in the center.

(It's still funny to watch people's faces when they see me, no body modifications of any kind... and then they see my parents. And then they see my aunties and uncles 🤣 )

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Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

Sounds like you had the best family!

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Nov 9, 2023·edited Nov 9, 2023Liked by Anne Helen Petersen

covering your bases and cutting your losses: practicing discernment in the process of friendmaking. Recently I realized that I was 1) defensively trying to cultivate too many friendships because it seems like everything always falls through because people are too busy (and their kids are always sick!) to keep plans - I am a work from home mom of 5 and 8 yo boys living in a high-cost city, and my besties have all moved away in recent years - but this meant that sometimes I myself wasn't able to follow through on plan making, but it was and is also true that so many plans are canceled that it feels hard to sustain the ongoing effort of trying, and 2) i was trying to make friends with folks who i had a connection with but for whatever reason were not interested in/able to put the effort in to "taking it to the next level." I had to take a hard look at the relationships I was cultivating and ask myself, who is reciprocating? The answer was, sadly, not many people. And so I go back to step number 1, covering my bases....anyway, I'm interested in other people's experience with this.

The other thing I have been thinking a lot about is phase-of-life relationships. I don't have much face time with other people in my age cohort, but I have built a really wonderful mutual relationship with our babysitter who sometimes feels like someone I'm mentoring and supporting, and sometimes feels like a family member/close friend, and sometimes feels like a person who is providing me and my family with care. And I realized maybe it's natural and OK that this is the most deep and frequent relationship I have right now, rather than a friendship with someone my own age.

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Nice take. What does friendship reciprocation look like to you? I have struggled with being an initiator. I've kind of gotten to the place where I do it less often bc it's labor but also when I reach out to certain friends who don't initiate they'll show up, so there's that

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