I’m Already Fearing The Day I Don’t Live With My Best Friends Anymore

Denise Curtin on the rite of passage that is living with your pals.

In May of this year, like most of you reading this, I sat down to watch the Friends reunion on TV. A whole 17 years after the series signed off in 2004, it’s safe to say it was bittersweet to see the cast reunite on screen and discuss a time in their lives that played such a pivotal role in creating who they are today.

It was emotional for many reasons, but the one aspect that really got me was how it showcased the passing of time and how precious certain periods in your life really are.

As co-creators Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane have said since the show became part of the zeitgeist –  and once again echoed during the reunion – Friends “is about that time in your life when your friends are your family.” That time when you share everything you have, from your bras to your biscuits, your tears to your triumphs, with a select group of people who get to see you in your most raw and unfiltered state.

It’s a hard one to describe without sounding like quattro formaggi, but when I saw the cast of Friends revisit stage 24, tracing the steps of where they originally shot the show and spent the majority of their twenties, the ‘selfish’ years as they’re called, I could just tell by the look in their eyes what they were thinking. Walking back onto that soundstage was like being granted the wish to transport back in time to when life felt at its peak, when nothing else mattered besides what occurred within those apartment walls. You could just tell it was incredibly moving and that they couldn’t believe they were getting the chance to see a glimpse of that chapter again, even if just for a second.

For me, watching from home in the *overly priced* rented house I share in Dublin with three of my best friends, I thought about how lucky I am to be living in the time they’re reflecting. To be spending my days totally immersed with my friends and the life we share together. The chaotic drama we create and the hilarious stories we share from the night before. Writing into the group chat from across the room when we’re too hungover to speak and dancing in the kitchen until the early hours when we’re too excited to sleep. To be honest with you, it’s the memories I’m currently creating that I’m already scared of losing. Watching the Friends reunion and the look on their faces made it all too real. It was like the confirmation I was scared of getting but couldn’t avoid seeing, it told me this time was special and as I looked around at my friends, I could tell they clocked it too.

Now, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry while writing this feature, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out if I’m a woman of my word. To explain why I’m so emotional about my friendships, I’ll give you a little insight into my life. When I was 19-years-old I transferred to the University of Limerick and it was here my journey living with my friends began. My group seemed to find each other by fluke, all studying different courses, it was down to some mutual connections and too many house parties that we crossed paths and kicked it off instantly. One semester later and we were all living together. Getting to share a home made us feel like we won the lotto, we were both the kids and the adults, moving from college kip to college kip as the years went by, loving every second of it expect the fights over who had to take the single bedroom.

We were (and still are) one of those groups that did everything together. If you saw one of us in the bar you could bet the others would emerge minutes later. To subtly brag, we loved how people commended us on our bond, we took pride in it because we could see it too and so, it was no surprise that when college ended we all flocked to Dublin together. When one of my best friends landed a job in PWC, it was the confirmation we needed that we were all headed for the capital. No jobs, but we knew we’d find something, we had each other.

Now, four years since leaving college, and two houses later, I still live with my best friends. Although two of them moved out last year, our bond is still as close, and as every cloud has its silver lining, in the process of the rejig we all gained a new housemate and friend. The ‘Ross’ to our group, Peter. Living together during lockdown really opened our eyes to how fortunate we are to have each other during such a – dare I say it – unprecedented time. When nothing was open we still had our little home, hidden off the Luas track with Centra’s finest wine in the fridge and nowhere to be but together. I wonder how the Friends characters would have navigated a pandemic? I’d like to think somewhat similar to us.

Dolly Alderton puts it beautifully when she describes the rite of passage that is living with your friends in her book Everything I Know About Love, she writes:

“Nearly everything I know about love, I’ve learnt in my long-term friendships with women. Particularly the ones I’ve lived with at one point or another. I know what it is to know every tiny detail about a person and revel in the knowledge as if it were an academic subject.” Because living with your friends isn’t about the monumental moments, I mean, these are important too, but it’s about the moments that aren’t so obvious to the public eye. The ones that make you a unit. Like the one where you pool your money together to get coffee before payday. The one where you wake up to three hungover heads lying on your bed discussing the night before. The one where you fight over who’s turn it is to buy toilet roll and the one where you uncontrollably laugh after stupidly crying. It’s in those moments you truly see someone and they truly see you, and it’s both fascinating and beautiful to be a part of.

Living with my friends has been my life for so long, that’s it’s hard to imagine it being just a phase. That these people I call my family will some day move on and so will I. Be it with their partners or to different countries, to new jobs or because life just happens, it’s hard to fathom and even harder to foresight. But what I do know is that we’ve made each other who we are today. We’ve built homes and stories together and we’ve continued to bask in the knowledge that what we have is special. We don’t need a reunion to remind us of that, we know it right now. In fact, we know it so well we’ve set a pretty high standard for potential roomies down the line – kids included – I joke.

As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change, but when times are so lovely, it’s hard to not wish for change to halt. That these days spent watching Kardashian re-runs, eating blocks of cheese and regurgitating the same old stories would last forever. But where’s the fun in that? If my seven years and counting living with friends has thought me anything, it’s how all the excitement lies in the unpredictably of what’s ahead. That no matter what, together or apart,  we’ll always share this bond and take with us the life lessons we’ve learned from this chaotic and colourful time. This rite of passage that is living with your best friends. Cue tears.