Can I Call You Back in 15 Years?

Real Simple Managing Editor Kristin van Ogtrop wonders how to keep friendships alive—without quitting her job, her family, or her life.

Photo by John Dolan

I don’t know about you, but this whole no-time-for-friends thing really took me by surprise. When you are very young, you have all the time in the world, which is unfortunate, because the hours move so slowly and you are perpetually bored. Everyone around you is an idiot, which makes the long days even longer. All the adults you know complain about not having enough time to get anything done, and you know that if they were just a bit more creative in their thinking or at the very least understood how to program the VCR, they would find that they had a lot more time than they thought. And you keep wondering: Dear God, when is life ever going to start?

Then you hit the age of 25 and you realize that your days are numbered, so to speak. You begin to understand that time is no longer infinitely elastic, and that while you spend hours attending to one priority, you are stealing those same hours from another. And why did nobody warn you that you would be spending 30 percent of your time on things that are really tedious or difficult, like trying to find a rental apartment you can afford and a nice boy whom you can marry and stay married to forever? This is a terrible time of life, the mid-20s, because you still don’t know what real adulthood looks like. And since you probably don’t have children yet, you can devote entire afternoons to questions like "Who am I?" which rarely lead you down a pretty path.

My friend Silvia used to be a career counselor, and a few years back she taught our book group a little exercise, which was to draw our lives as pie charts. We were sitting at dinner, and after the exercise everyone blithely helped themselves to more wine and the conversation turned to genuinely important topics, like who among the women we know had gotten breast implants. I, however, was unable to think about breasts because my pie chart was so disturbing. Why? Basically my life consisted of three segments: kids, work, and sleep.

Let’s leave the husband out of it for a minute. And showering and watching silly people do dumb things on YouTube, each of which gets a little bit of my time on any given day. Where was gardening, which is one of my favorite activities in the world? And reading, also one of the biggies? And what about friends?!?