Sometimes, nostalgia comes out of nowhere and makes you feel older, that time has passed by.
Like this week’s news that it was ten years since Friends ended. It does not seem that long since a group of us were sitting on my bed, in halls of residents, watching the final episode.
I remember being emotional enough to email the university newspaper – to suggest a piece exploring why the show had been such a stand-out success. Why the first sitcom to focus on the ‘friends’ unit, rather than family, had been so popular because it reflected a wider social trend. How adorably earnest.
I didn’t write the piece – no one answered my email – but it did spur me on to join the newspaper the following year. I’m so glad I did that. It gave me something creative and tangible that stands out in my otherwise foggy university memories of drinking and deadlines.
But Friends was always personal for me. Some people found catharsis in mainlining Nirvana growing up. I liked the mainstream reassurance of a sitcom that was ‘always there’ for me. During those teenage years, when some of my own friends changed and started liking Slipknot and smoking, I would switch on Friends to be in a nicer, grown-up, but less serious world.
And then – after dropping out of university – I watched Friends when my ‘life was stuck in second gear’. It made me feel better, because it suggested things would get better, that there was value and comedy in making mistakes.
And things did get better. My second university worked out far more than I ever thought possible. A big part of this was because I made those close friendships that provide fun, back-up and security. It was those friendships that led me to London.
Although, according to some, that isn’t always healthy. I was unsettled when I watched Dr. Meg Jay’s Ted Talk warning about how ‘30 is not the new 20’ and how city friendship ‘huddles’ can be limiting, holding people back from discovering more and taking risks.
The slapstick, ‘my disastrous life is hilarious’ chaos of the 90s TV show all worked out in the end for the characters, their personal story-lines were wrapped up neatly with a bow. Only Joey was the one left single. Now he would be watching all his friends get married and having babies on Facebook. He’d be fine though.
For me one of the saddest things was hearing Matt Le Blanc on why the show had to end. “That show was about a finite period of time in life, after college and before your relationship and family starts and where your friends are your support system.”
So perhaps the younger me was wrong – perhaps there is no ‘social shift’- Friends just documented a ‘phase’ before real life starts. A phase I was in then, and am coming out of now. I’m not sure if I’m ready for that – I’m not sure if I’ll ever be ready to say goodbye to my friends – both on TV and in real life.