Friendshifts: Keeping Close Through Life's Changes

I'm made up of the people I know and the friends I keep. I'd be nothing without them. --20-year-old Penn State male freshman

One Sunday afternoon about a year ago, I called my close friend Joyce just to say hello, but she was not home. A few hours later, Joyce returned my call. She started our conversation by sharing with me that she had a job interview the next day. It seemed she was up against 90 others. She was feeling depressed, anxious, and scared. Then she gave me the highest compliment a friend could give to another friend: "Just hearing your voice makes me feel better."

Without even trying, I had helped lower Joyce's stress level. It is just that ability of friends to reduce the stress related to life's tougher events that has led researchers to confirm that friends extend our lives as well as improve the quality of our lives.

Joyce and I find comfort in talking to each other because of our ongoing close friendship as well as our shared history, which began the summer of 1969, when we first met in geology class at Temple University in Philadelphia. From the very start of our relationship, Joyce always laughed at my jokes, bringing out a whimsical side in me that too few others see behind my intense, driven, and studious facade. I shared in Joyce's grief when her mother died too young; I witnessed Joyce's joyful wedding, as she did mine. I was at the surprise shower many years later for her newborn daughter, a blessed event that much sweeter since this pregnancy had not ended in a miscarriage at five months as so many others had.

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