Every Monday we would gather at our favorite grimy, beach-themed restaurant to eat, drink, and be merry. We crowded closely around a few tables pushed together, probably making other patrons slightly annoyed at our loud storytelling and laughter. But the laughter was the best part. During those nights there were two things we could count on: a lot of jokes and a lot of nachos. And that is a beautiful thing.
After college, and as you get deeper into your twenties and beyond, it seems like one of the biggest things that change is friendships. And it kind of hurts, in the way getting smacked in the face with a giant frozen salmon unexpectedly hurts. It catches you off guard, is confusing and painful, and flat-out stinks all at once. After graduation, people move away, become consumed by their jobs, get married, go overseas, or decide they now prefer Netflix and hiding under a cluster of cats instead of running around downtown late into the weekend nights like their wayward years of the past. And yes, change is good, of course. Bring it on! Because a fifty-five-year-old probably shouldn’t have the same weekend agenda as a twenty-one-year-old. At least not often. Maybe once a year, or twice if they work out. But also, loneliness is a real, harsh thing, and as you get older it can get tough to fight that off. Boo! Lame! Loneliness sucks. Yet I know we all experience it, which is a bit strange. If we are all feeling it, why don’t we all do something to fix it, together? Ya know, so we are not . . . lonely anymore?
For example, when I was working on a writing project once, I gathered my closest girlfriends at the time so they could read it, give me feedback, and brainstorm other ideas that were relevant to our lives at the moment. I had them all show up at my co-working space, I stuffed them full of mimosas and bagels, and we laughed and read and discussed. It was a really special morning for me, as these women took time out of their lives and simply showed up to help, and I felt so blessed by that. As I looked around the table, I was grateful to have so many women I could call on and who also called on me back. But then when I asked the question, “What is one of the hardest parts of getting older for you?” Guess what the majority of those women said? Loneliness. Which, in a way, surprised me because we were all sitting together, dining together, sharing our lives with each other in that exact moment. But how often did we make this intentional time for each other? Apparently not enough, because we all felt the sting of loneliness in our hearts. We all yearned to have more people around us who made our souls light up like the mom’s living room in Stranger Things. In our day-to-day lives, we needed more than just Carl, our cubicle neighbor who always had a dry tickle in his throat and chewed gum too loud. Carl wasn’t cutting it.
There is deep beauty in genuine community and friendships that feel like family. In fact, God straight up instructs us to have friends. In the Bible, God urges us to meet with and encourage each other.
I find it funny how God has to forcefully spoon-feed us the good things in life sometimes. Ugh, fine, I will find people I like, spend time with them, and then be chill on Sundays. If you insist.
But guess what? No matter if you are twenty, thirty, or ninety, it is possible to make room for people in your life. (After one hundred it may get dicey, as likely you both won’t be able to hear each other speak.) So, if you are in a state of perpetual loneliness, I hope you know that a lot of other people around you are as well. Sometimes someone just has to make the first move.
The year of the Monday night nachos was such a great example of friendship and community.
On Mondays, I would head straight from work to the restaurant, where I would find Kyle already one plate of nachos deep and likely ordering his second, surrounded by our friends and the big plaster mermaid adorning the dark wood walls.
We went there on Monday nights because the restaurant held a promotion. If you bought a pitcher of soda or beer, you got a free plate of nachos. Say no more. Sign me up. The best part was the free “plate” was closer to the size of a small island nation. A mound of the most salty, perfect tortilla chips, a heap of dairy products that would put a shiver through even the spine of a Nebraska cow farmer, and a mountain of guacamole. And this was even before avocados became so trendy. Back then, it was just normal guac.
But surrounding the haystacks of cheese and chips was a circle of friends we had known and loved for years, and that is really what brought us there every week. They were the type of friends who felt more like family, having lived through so many days and nights and nacho plates together. It was all so comfortable and easy. We always had the same waitress and always sat at the same table in the back, under that stupid mermaid statue, which would, without fail, provoke outbreaks of the song “Under the Sea” by the theatrical crew. And yes, every Monday, as dependable as the cheese bloat we would all have the next morning, they would chant the nickname they gave me, “Drama” as I walked in. It was the perfect way to kick off a week: nachos, nicknames, and mermaids. Thank you, Jesus.
We didn’t know it at the time, but as we got older these sweet moments of community would become fewer and further between. There would be seasons where Kyle and I only had each other, our pets, and the Roku remote to spend our weekend with. There would be seasons where we were trapped by demanding jobs and teething babies and it felt like we would never exit our own home again without being weighed down by a diaper bag and covered in spit-up bananas.
But guess what? True, real community and friends—like the ones we would share nachos with every single week—are not only something reserved for those under the age of twenty-five. That is a lie the demons of adulthood like to whisper in our ears. Not today, lame-o Satan. Friends and community are still obtainable at any age. You just have to work a little harder for it.