I had a sudden realization recently when talking to close friends I met over 20 years ago. Somehow, when we weren’t paying attention, we morphed into adults, with the full array of issues to go along with it.

None of us was aware it was happening at the time. We graduated from college, and went off into the world armed with a diploma and a readiness to take the next steps in our lives. We thought at the moment that we were “grown ups,” but I don’t think any of us really meant it – or understood it.

We got good jobs, worked hard and found professional success. Some of us got married and had kids – and all in all, we’ve had a good time.

Were there challenges? Of course. But we’ve supported each other through each one, and our blessings have far outweighed the bumps in the road.

Together, we’ve watched our daughters grow – infant, toddler, elementary school – and we have been mesmerized by them.

This year, however, has been an eye-opening one as we realized that bigger issues were creeping in. We didn’t realize somehow that as our daughters were growing up, so too were we.

Within our group, there have been miscarriages, major surgeries, health scares. And it isn’t limited to us – we’ve also noticed issues with our parents, too. Breast cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, broken bones … they’ve gotten older, and it seems like it happened overnight.

On many levels, we’ve been very fortunate over the last 20 years since we met.

Despite being scattered across the country, we’ve maintained and strengthened our friendships. And while we all have siblings that we love dearly, our friendship is a sisterhood into itself, a place to love, laugh, vent and cry – often all in the same conversation.

We were all aware of the fact that aging happens, but in the innocence of youth, preoccupied with things like bills and mortgages, we didn’t really understand what that meant. In the last year, there’s come a realization that those fun years after college were just a precursor, a buffer period of relaxation to get us ready for more serious situations.

Perhaps John Lennon said it best: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

We didn’t realize it, but here we are, on the brink of the next phase, understanding that growing up continues throughout life – it doesn’t stop at a predetermined number. And I’m more thankful than ever for those friendships, to know that my strong friends are by my side.

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