The Complex, Yet Liberating, Act Of Finding My Tribe In My 30s

I had a pandemic epiphany, of sorts. Should I spend my 30s prioritising new friendships?
Me at a music festival
Me at a music festival

“I’ll only book in one this year, lads.”

It’s funny how that one sentence made me feel relief, disappointment and frustration at the same time. It came from a friend on WhatsApp, telling me he’d only be up for doing one music festival this summer.

If you’re not a festival fan, replace that with a holiday or weekend away – whatever you socially value most. The message came amid a rediscovery of an unwelcome feeling I have each spring – one that had dissipated under the pandemic when there were no events to book.

You see, I often fear asking friends to join me on my summer-long jaunt of misadventures now I’m no longer in my 20s. I worry they have other priorities, or that I want to socialise way more than them. I worry because we’re the same age, but in very different stages of our lives.

My awkwardness at broaching the topic has sense to it: many of my friends genuinely do have other priorities: babies, families, or, like many others in my life, are considering buying houses in remote villages that’ll work out cheaper than paying the rent on their one bedroom Hackney flat. Makes sense, right?

The fact I felt relieved to receive a text that was, ultimately, disappointing was the most interesting part. Of course, I’d rather sip vodka mixed with something awful on most weekends of summer, not only one. (One fateful night, we mixed it with dandelion and burdock, whatever that is, from Tesco in a two-litre bottle and carried it around all night.) But I realised that while my friends do still want to sip booze from a two-litre plastic bottle in a field – they just want to do it less.

That’s the thing about life in your 30s: people are at such different stages in their lives. And from your mid-20s upwards, you may feel as if you’ve become polarised from some of the people you had so much in common with only a few years back. Pondering this gave me a pandemic epiphany, of sorts.

I don’t always want to be the ‘outgoing’ one, known for collecting people together to go to festivals. And, like Carrie Bradshaw, I wondered: are my early 30s the time to act on thoughts I’ve been having about widening my social circle? Is this the time to find my tribe of people at a similar life stage to me? My older friendships will stay, of course. They’ll always stay.

What I want, I realised, is to find a cohort of like-minded people for whom our 30s are, in social terms, an extension of our 20s. A chance to party more responsibly (sometimes), less responsibly at other times (that all depends how their 20s panned out), but most importantly, to be on the same trajectory.

Making friends in your 30s? Not so easy. As people age, many already have their friendship circles in place. And during Covid, it’s felt harder to nurture our friendships as it is – let alone make new ones. There’s been less intense social situations to foster friendships like the ones you made at university.

Perhaps if I’m to look for my tribe, I should turn to my queerness for help. After all, queer people have historically followed different lifestyles to their straight pals – we had to, due to inequality. But that in itself is a tricky climb. Queer spaces can often feel hyper-sexualised, and make social interactions feel confusing. Plus, with no LGBTQ Community Centre in London, nor more than a handful around the country, there are few places to meet people that aren’t in alcohol-fuelled environments.

“Now feels like the time.”

Nevertheless, now feels like the time. I’ve been spurred on by legions of queer people recently sharing tweets about finding their tribes, so I sent my own. The replies made compassion and kindness within the community shine through.

The truth is, I’m not sure I have a game plan, other than knowing it’s time to experiment. Perhaps I’ll muster the courage to forge IRL friendship from those I chat to online. Or I’ll work on my confidence, so I can approach people when out in social situations. It’s a work in progress – an exciting one, though.

Maybe one day I’ll be telling my lifelong friends I can’t keep up with my queer tribe. I’ll be sending my new posse a courteous text – politely letting them know my priorities have changed. “I’ll only book in one this year, lads,” I’ll say, to get myself off the hook.

Perhaps those years are to come – but for now, I’ll take all the vodka mixed with dandelion and burdock I can get.