How you doin’?
If you didn’t already know, I’m mildly obsessed with Friends, the NBC show that ran from 1994 until 2004. I have watched all ten seasons at least a dozen times, I can quote almost every episode, and I’m an expert at Friends trivia (just try me). I didn’t start watching the show until I was in college, but I quickly fell in love with the characters. As I’ve navigated my early and mid twenties, I’ve continued to watch Friends. When I lived alone in Savannah, I watched five or six episodes a night, using the chatter of the six New Yorkers as background noise. And as I’ve watched, I realized that the life situations the show’s writers presented Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe with are still relatable, even though it’s been fifteen years since the show was on TV.
Today, I decided to share five of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from Friends :
1. True friends give you their honest opinions but no matter what decision you make, they will support you.
Remember when Rachel started dating Paolo, the sexy Italian man who eventually hit on Phoebe? Despite the fact that everyone knew Paolo wasn’t a long-term relationship option, they still hung out with him and tolerated his presence. When she eventually dumped him, all of them supported her (Ross more than others!). What about the time everyone found out Phoebe had been secretly married to her ice-dancer friend (played by Steve Zahn) for years so he could get a Green Card (he was Canadian). Sure, the whole group gave her a hard time about it, but when she was sad because he was “divorcing” her to marry someone else, they consoled her, because that’s what friends do. Friendship is kindly offering your opinion to your friends but understanding that they may not always listen or heed your advice. And if you’re proven right later on, a good friend never says, “I told you so.”
2. A lot of personal growth and change takes place during your twenties.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but when you look at where the characters in Friends started out (around age 24 or 25), and where they ended up a few years later, it’s drastically different. In the first seasons, most of them were paying their dues in life—working jobs they didn’t necessarily enjoy, struggling to pay bills and make ends, meet, etc. All of them learned different lessons about life during the early years of the show. They lost loved ones, dealt with toxic relationships, experienced divorce and heartbreak—all of which are part of our twenties, I feel like. I relate to those episodes because I’m in my twenties, and I’m going through similar things. As they reached the age of thirty, life changed even more. We saw the characters settle down into careers they loved (well, did Chandler ever enjoy the data analysis he did for large, multi-national corporations?). We saw them involved in more serious relationships, thinking more about long-term futures rather than the next Friday night. We watched them grow.
When I look at where I was when I was twenty-two (graduating college) and where I am now (nearly twenty-eight), the contrast is shocking. Back then, I was younger. Naïve, even. Life has turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected, though not in a bad way necessarily. Nonetheless, as I grow up (oh I’m still growing), I feel like I’m in the same boat with the six friends, and we’re all paddling in the same direction.
3. Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to.
In the first season, when Rachel says she’s “going to get one of those job things”, she never imagined that she’d end up working for Bloomingdales and later Ralph Lauren. Look at Monica and Chandler and their journey towards starting a family. From the beginning of the show, Monica talked about wanting a baby. At one point, she was going to get a sperm donor and have a baby by herself (she had just come out of a bad breakup). And after Monica and Chandler married and began trying to conceive, it soon became evident that they couldn’t. Eventually, in the final season, they adopted two babies. Rachel didn’t intend to be a single mom, but she and Ross raised Emma (I love that their baby’s name was Emma) together, as a team. Joey kept waiting for his big acting break, but it never really came.
We can make all the plans we want for our lives, but chances are, those plans won’t turn out the way we hoped. Sometimes, we end up living a life much better than anything we ever could’ve planned.
4. It’s okay to be different.
Phoebe Buffay doesn’t fit into any specific mold. She’s fun, a little “floopy,” and she has really unusual taste in art. She’s indecisive and rarely has “steady” income, but she’s totally happy with who she is. Pheobe never needed anyone else’s approval because she was 100% herself, and I love that about her (and yes, I know she’s just a character played by Lisa Kudrow).
Look at Joey. He went against his family’s hopes for him and decided to become an actor. And through every season of the show, he never gave up on his dreams. He had some major ups and downs in his career (remember the elevator shaft?), but ultimately ends up a somewhat well-known soap-opera actor. Joey dared to be different. Like Phoebe, he didn’t seem to mind living paycheck-to-paycheck because he was pursuing his dream, even when it meant he had to work lots of odd jobs (selling Christmas trees, selling men’s cologne, working at Caesars Palace, etc).
Do you feel a little different from others? I know I do, but that’s okay. I’ve really started to accept that being a little quirky and unlike others is 100% acceptable.
5. People from all different backgrounds with all different beliefs can still be friends.
Monica & Ross were Jewish. Phoebe spent a portion of her life homeless, living on the streets and mugging teenage boys. Rachel’s goal in life (at least in Season One) was to marry someone well-off, preferably a doctor. Chandler was emotionally scarred from his…colorful childhood and complicated parental situation. Joey was the only boy in a large Italian family of girls. All six of them came from different backgrounds and different levels of education, but their friendships worked. They accepted each other, no matter what. Sure, they disagreed on a few things, but that never hindered their friendships.
So there it is, y’all. You probably think I’m insane now, right? That I spend way too much time watching this show? Well, you’re right about that one. Sometimes I’ll be re-watching an episode and realize, “hey, I’m going through that exact same type of thing right now!” And even though “Friends” is just a TV show (and one that’s been off-air for YEARS), it’s still so relatable! Knowing that Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, & Phoebe made it through all this trials and struggles makes us feel a little better somehow. If they could be successful and happy, so can we!
(we found this at a holiday market before Christmas, and it now hangs in our bedroom. I love it!)