I had a great friend group before the pandemic. After a year in isolation, I wonder if any of it will be left.

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

In some ways, this last year has seemed to drag on forever, but in some ways, it’s gone by so fast. Case in point: I can’t believe it’s literally been almost a year since I’ve seen most of my friends. My friends usually got together at our favorite bar at least a couple nights a week. Even if we didn’t plan it that way, half of us would just show up there organically and end up having a great time. I can tell you the last time we did this: March 14, the Saturday before the Monday when Anchorage bars closed down for the first time.

At first, we all had some Zoom calls, and we texted a lot more. But as time went on, we sort of fell out of touch. It’s like there wasn’t anything to say. None of us really had anything going on. We would say we missed each other and couldn’t wait to hang out again … and then months went by. Even when the bars have reopened, only a couple of my friends have ventured out. Most of us have been pretty straight about following suggestions to keep social circles small and avoid unnecessary outings.

I feel like there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. A couple of my friends have even gotten their first vaccine shot. But I’m worried when all this is said and done, my friendships won’t be the same — that we will have grown apart, and we will have all developed new habits and routines and won’t feel like going out like we used to. Frankly, this freaks me out. What can I do to get my gang out and together again when the time is right?

Wanda says:

Who knows what the outcome of all this will be? On one hand, when we have collectively moved past COVID-19, your friends may be stoked to rush back to the bar and raise a collective group toast, easily sliding back into familiar habits and routines. Or, it might be that so much time has passed that we are ready to permanently trade in big bar tabs and boozy Uber rides for cozy nights at home marathoning Netflix and playing Yahtzee.

Honestly, at this point, both future outcomes sound strange. Personally, I’m not ready to give up my craft cocktails and evenings out, but I also have a newfound love for my home and solitude I didn’t previously appreciate. Ultimately, all you can really control is yourself in the here and now. So if your friendships are important to you, invest some time and energy in nurturing them. You don’t need a bar stool and mixed drinks to make that happen.

Group Zooming does get a little old, especially after a year of videoconferencing, but there are lots of ways to meet up safely in person for activities like walks, bike rides or get-togethers in spacious areas. There’s nothing stopping you from reaching out to those who are important to you and telling them that; we all need to hear that right now, and those sentiments would probably bring your friends a ton of joy. And just because we aren’t actively out doing things doesn’t mean we aren’t going through things. All of us can benefit from meaningful check-ins with friends.

It’s also important to remember that while you are looking forward to getting back to your favorite bar, that may not be the case for everyone in your crew. That doesn’t mean your friends don’t love and miss you; instead, it may the past year has given them space to discover and embrace new ways to spend their time.

Wayne says:

Let’s imagine for a second that COVID never happened. It’s tough to even envision after all the death, devastation and depression this pandemic has dropped on our lives, but try your best. And now think about 2020 being like any other year in modern times, with some unpredictable ups and downs, but also filled with a steady, reliable run of old routines, vacations, adventures and good times with friends and family. And, of course, with regular gatherings of the homies at the ol’ watering hole.

Even in that dream scenario, I bet that over the course of this “normal” year some aspect of tavern time with friends will have changed significantly, or many aspects will have changed in smaller ways. Someone would start dating, get swept away into all of that, and either disappear or start bringing their hopefully likeable BF/GF with them every time they show up. Someone in a long-term relationship could start planning or producing a family, and slowly fade away. Someone could get caught up in a really crazy stretch at work, and either stop making it out most of the time or show up and drink themselves crazy. Maybe someone moves away. Perhaps someone just gets tired of being buzzed three times a week, especially on weekdays, and changes the schedule to a drink or two once a month. Maybe one of these someones is you?

Life is crazy, even without a pandemic, and the only thing that’s a constant is change. Deep thoughts, I know. But think back on how much your crew’s lineup and their lives have already changed over your years of partying together. So stop adding more stress to your already stressed out life and see how the next few months play out. Your friends are your friends, and many will probably always be your friends. Will they always be your never-miss-a-night-out drinking buddies? Probably not. But will they all be excited to join you for a round of celebratory shots — hard liquor, not vaccinations — as soon as they feel the COVID coast is clear? You bet. And now you know how important it is to enjoy every second.

[My wife wants only a couple friends in our pandemic bubble: Her friends]

[I’ve gotten one dose of vaccine. It’s because of my job, but my friends and family act like I’ve cut in line.]