I imagine many philosophers and great thinkers have pondered upon the topic of Friendship and explored it from many angles. I will confess my ignorance on the matter from the beginning and clearly state I have not read any major work on this subject. I simply want to share my own experiences and thoughts on Friendship for whoever would like to read it.
A consistent theme has appeared in my life as I have gotten older; it has become progressively more difficult to create new friendships and to sustain life in friendships formed during my high school and college years (i.e. my "younger years"). As a result, I have thought about this issue more as I have become increasingly isolated and felt more lonely. What is needed to foster and preserve a meaningful friendship? What kinds of characteristics does a strong friendship have? Why does it seem to become harder to form new friendships as one gets older? I don't have clear answers for any of these questions, but it's worth to at least candidly think about these issues.
In regards to sustaining friendships, I have learned that it takes mutual effort to keep a friendship alive. Over the years, I have grown apart from several close friends because I was the friend who was consistently putting forth effort to preserve the friendship. It's not pleasant being in such a situation because you eventually become resentful towards the individual who is not putting any effort to nurture the companionship. Of course, in my younger days, I was too immature to discuss my resentment openly and the easiest response was to simply stop putting forth effort and hoping that the other person would realize on their own that they must carry their own weight. Unfortunately, none of my friends came upon this realization and the friendship slowly withered away. This brings us to the another lesson for maintaining camaraderie; open and direct communication about the status of the friendship. Regrettably, this is a difficult trait to cultivate because men are generally inexperienced at discussing their feelings and emotional problems, especially with fellow men. As a result, important issues often do not get discussed and we are back to resentment and drifting apart.
Assuming a friendship does survive and thrive, does it necessarily mean the connection is meaningful? I imagine most of us know what a surface-level and shallow friendship can feel like. But what does a deeper connection entail? This is an issue I think about often and there is no single answer. However, I believe most strong friendships contain certain characteristics. A true friend is consistently available to listen to you non-judgmentally, especially during your lowest points and your most difficult struggles. They do not shy away when the situation gets heavy and emotional. They are willing to be honest with you and tell you things you don't want to hear but need to hear. They are open and care about problems that arise in the friendship and make effort to discuss the issues openly and directly. They do not get jealous at your accomplishments and share your joy whenever good things come your way. And as hinted at before, they are willing to reciprocate and believe in putting forth mutual effort in sustaining the companionship. I am sure there are many other factors involved but these are the main ones that I have experienced in my own life and view to be important.
Strong friendships can make one's life richer, more meaningful, and lead to substantial growth. Sadly, they seem more difficult to come by as one gets older. There are many potential reasons for this but one primary cause seems to appear often; we get progressively more busy as we get older. We advance in our careers and have more responsibilities, resulting in our job taking up more of our time and energy. Additionally, most of us eventually get married and have children and we understandably become very committed to our family and have to spend time with them as often as possible. Another unfortunate cause is that we become more set in our ways as we get older. We believe we know what are our preferences are and what kinds of people we are willing to be around and comfortable with. As a result, we don't give many potential friends a chance because of our pre-existing notions on who they are and why they might not be a good fit for us. We become less flexible and open-minded in accepting people who are different from us. We understand the importance of accepting others from an intellectual standpoint but from a practical standpoint (i.e. considering a close friendship with someone), we can often times be quite closed-minded.
Sadly, true long-term friends are hard to come by. Treasure them if you have them. Do your best to never let them go.