Over the past 14 months, while we've all been home during the pandemic, there have been a lot of unanticipated things that changed because of the way we've been living. Some of them have been wonderful, like being able to sleep more now that I don't have a commute, and better work life balance that comes with working at home. Of course, there have been many other things that I haven't loved as much, like missing out on concerts and events I had been looking forward to or missing big family events at the holidays. Now that we are finally starting to come out of our hibernation and slowly return to our lives as they were before March 2020, I've realized something I missed a lot that I didn't even realize I was missing... the friends of my friends.
These are the people you see four or five times a year at your friends' birthday parties and backyard summer barbeques. The people you have grown to know over the years through being at the same gatherings. The people you might be friends with on Facebook or Instagram, but don't have phone numbers for. The people on the fringes of your life, whom you never had FaceTime calls with during lockdown, but would genuinely care to know what's going on in their lives.
Their lives all carried on during lockdown too. The tiny babies you remembered are now toddlers, and new tiny babies have made their debut. People have bought houses, gotten dogs, cut their hair, and a million other big and little things. Things that seeing someone even four or five times a year don't seem as dramatically noticeable as when you haven't interacted with them in over a year.
It's easy to think of your friends as being the people in your innermost circle, or even to think of the pandemic as a way of paring down, or showing you who was really important to you by way of seeing who remained close during time apart. But even while talking to those close friends this year, and being so grateful to have that network of people, there were times when things felt lonely. After seeing some of these friends on the outer edges of my circle again, I'm reminded that even the most casual friendships truly help round out our social circles in an almost surprisingly meaningful way. They play a bigger role than I had realized in keeping my circle full and vibrant. Just because you don't see someone often doesn't mean that you wouldn't miss them if they were gone, and I'm grateful to this time away for showing me how much it means to be part of a larger network. As the days get warmer, and the pandemic finally (hopefully!) starts to wind to a close, I am really looking forward to seeing these people again and growing my circle back to its former glory.