The 90s sitcom Friends, was a part of many of our lives for 10 years (unless you only binged-watched it recently on Netflix). Either way, there’s no doubt that the show gave you some insight into things you may struggle with, including financial issues, relationships, self-development etc.
The six main characters: Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Joey, were just regular young adults living in New York City. Their problems were realistic (well, most of them anyway), their emotions seemed genuine (top-notch acting skills, from all six) and we all took away at least a few lessons that stuck with us for years. That’s what made Friends so popular. We all felt that we were on a journey and learning with the six characters. Here are 15 of the most important life lessons that Friends taught us.
15. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
In life, we are fortunate enough to have the ability to choose our friends. They can become like a second family to us (or as in Phoebe’s case, a primary family, if we’ve never met ours or aren’t in contact with them for whatever reason). Good friends, which are really the only kind of friends there are when you think about it, will have your back no matter what. They are there to help, just ask. Left a guy at the altar on your wedding day and don’t know who to turn to? Your friend will welcome you with open arms. They’ll also be there to celebrate the important moments in your life. Giving birth to your brother’s triplets? Don’t worry, your friends won’t judge you. In fact, they’ll remind you of how amazing you are for doing it. And of course, they’ll be there to cheer you up if you’re sad or just want to let loose on a regular day. The thing about friendship though, and life in general, is that you have to give back. The six friends were always reciprocal, without keeping record of who owes who and that’s what made their friendship solid.
14. Life Involves Taking Risks
How did Rachel finally land a job in the fashion industry? How did Rachel and Ross end up together at the end? How did Phoebe meet Mike? And most importantly, how did our favorite sitcom even start? The answer is that somebody took a risk. Rachel could have taken the safe route and kept her job serving coffees for the rest of her life but she chose to take a risk instead. You probably know someone who’s worked at a job they hated for decades, even though it’s clear their passions lie somewhere else. It’s pretty sad to live your life like that, without going after your dreams. Rachel showed us that it’s not easy to walk away from security and it takes years of hard work and effort to achieve your life goals, but when you do, it’s a beautiful thing. In fact, Friends began with Rachel taking the risk of leaving behind Barry, her (rich) orthodontist fiancée, because she just wasn’t feeling a connection. Phoebe also met her future husband, Mike, by taking the risk of agreeing to go on a blind date. Rachel and Ross, of course, ended up together because Ross risked looking like an idiot to tell her how he felt. When you take risks, you open up the door for many possibilities and something good is likely to come out of it (even if that “something good” is simply a lesson learned).
13. Dating Is Difficult
We didn’t need to watch Friends to learn that dating is tough. But those six did teach us some very important things about talking to the opposite sex, dating and how to make relationships last. We’ll start with talking to the opposite sex. The first rule is: do NOT talk about gas with the cute stranger you just met. Just take it from Ross’ experience, and don’t. If you’re not hideous and are confident enough, a simple, “How you doin’?” will get you far. Next, do not wear leather pants on the first date (again, Ross will gladly tell you so). Most importantly, sometimes relationships get complicated and one or both partners will want a break. If or when this happens, do NOT for one moment think that it’s okay to see other people during your break and don’t you dare use it as an excuse after the fact (they’ll never let it go).
12. Honesty Is The Best Policy
Remember when Chandler and Monica started dating in secret? Slowly, more and more of their friends found out but they all vowed to keep it a secret until things became so confusing that no one really knew who they could tell or how much they could tell. Most importantly, when the truth came out (and no one really knew when it would), some people (i.e. Ross) were mad that they were kept in the dark. It’s best to just be open and honest with your friends instead of keeping some or all of them in the dark, especially about important things in your life. Chances are that they’ll be happy for you if you’re happy.
11. Grow Old Gracefully
The big 3-0 is a big number that a lot of 20-somethings fear. It seems to be perceived as the magic age where you really are no longer young; you’re supposed to have your life together, and not do foolish things anymore. When the characters on Friends turned 30, they were all pretty bummed out (and that might be an understatement). But, nothing drastic really happened once they turned 30 (besides the fact that they consciously decided that it was time for a new car or time to leave the immature boyfriend). Otherwise, it was NOT some life-altering day. Instead, life went on as usual and it wasn’t so bad because they all stuck by each other’s sides.
10. Follow Your Heart
Phoebe gave Ross some insight when he was doubtful about being with Rachel. She told him that Rachel was his lobster—referring to the fact that lobsters fall in love and mate for life—so things will work out. Ross must have believed her because he never gave up on Rachel, even when she was on a plane and about to leave for the other side of the world. He did what he had to do (risked his life by having Phoebe drive him like a crazy woman all the way to the airport) and was courageous enough to be completely honest to Rachel when he came face-to-face with her, even if it meant embarrassment, disappoint and heartbreak at first. The two eventually ended up together in a scene that made Friends fans tear up. But, could you imagine what would have happened if Ross just gave up on love after his third divorce, like many people probably would? We don’t want to think about it, either.
9. Love Yourself For Who You Are
It’s important as you settle into your adult self to learn to love your body and yourself the way it is. Don’t make drastic changes for someone else. And know the rules of cosmetic procedures before you take part in them. For example, if you’d like to visit a tanning salon, don’t count in Mississippis unless you want to look like you just came back from a trip to the sun. Also, if you’re considering using a whitening gel for your teeth, don’t leave it on longer than the instructions suggest or you’ll only end up looking like the Cheshire Cat (with insanely white, glow-in-the-dark teeth) and it’ll elicit some negative reactions from the person you were trying to impress, like,“What the hell is wrong with you?!”
8. Give People A Chance, Don’t Judge
No one is perfect and this holds in both real life and on Friends. Each of the six characters has flaws or has done some questionable things in their lives (left a man at the altar… threw a girl’s wooden leg in the fire, etc) yet they’re all likeable people. Their flaws don’t define who they are. Could you imagine if Monica was judgmental of Rachel’s decision to run out on her wedding in the first episode? We wouldn’t have had all those years of this wonderful sitcom. Or what if the friends left Phoebe, because, let’s face it, she’s the weirdest? They would have missed out on having one of the most caring and passionate people around. So, the next time you hear about or see someone doing something not-so-perfect, try to forget it and get to know them beyond their flaws. You just might end up being surprised at what you find.
7. Happiness Is A Choice
One of the most positive and inspiring characters on Friends is Phoebe. The girl has been through it all: she was homeless, her mom committed suicide, the guy she loved moved away to a random country, and she didn’t know her biological family for a long time. It all sounds really tragic and you’d think that anyone who has been through this would be broken, and that it would even be a bit understandable for them to use their past as an excuse for many things. But, Phoebe did not let her past define her or write her future. She was always laughing, singing silly songs, had a big heart and made something positive of herself and her life. She teaches us that happiness is a choice; it’s all about your perspective.
6. Life Will Never Be Perfect
Look, if Monica can’t be perfect, neither can we. Monica has a plan for everything, a label for everything and is just a total perfectionist/control-freak in every sense (the woman categorizes towels, for crying out loud). But even with all that planning, effort and determination, Monica got a bad restaurant review and she couldn’t give birth to a baby. Sometimes, we just can’t control what happens in our lives. But Monica taught us that we have to accept reality and move forward. There are always other options (for her and Chandler, it was adoption). The things that happen in our lives can set us down a path that may not be what we planned, but is still a good one. In this case, they got more than they expected (twins) and helped out someone else.
5. Never Give Up On Your Dreams
Joey may have seemed like an airhead (actually, he was definitely an airhead) but he had one amazing quality going for him (besides being a great friend): he never gave up on his dream of becoming an actor. You probably can’t even count the number of times that Joey got rejected from acting parts or received a bad review throughout Friends (unless you’re a really, really obsessive fan of the show who actually kept track of it). Despite all the failures, Joey didn’t give up. He just kept on going until he got what he wanted, even if it meant living off little money. It’s quite a lesson for most of us because we always hear the cliché, but seldom do we see someone experiencing so much failure yet remaining hopeful (and yes, it’s only a television show, but his situation is a very real one).
4. Let The Walls Down, Express Yourself
Chandler was often made fun of throughout Friends for not showing his emotions. In The One Where Chandler Can’t Cry, they couldn’t make him cry by showing him childhood photos or telling him sad stories (seriously, who doesn’t cry during E.T. or Bambi?). Chandler also frequently used jokes and sarcasm as a defense mechanism, or so he says. When he finally let down his barrier and expressed his feelings to Monica, he was able to have a meaningful, committed relationship (something that he or no one else thought was possible for him). He also opened up more about his fears and desires as the years went by and this was what probably led him to making some big steps toward improving his life (like quitting his boring job). When you begin to express what you want, you’re more likely to improve your reality.
3. Don’t Worry About What Others Think
Phoebe, as we all know, was very eccentric. She believed that a stray cat was a reincarnation of her mother, she acted like she had a sixth sense, wore some questionable clothing/accessories (see The One Where No One’s Ready) and was completely okay singing descriptive and rather silly songs in public. Phoebe clearly didn’t care if people thought she was strange, she just did what made her happy and her happiness definitely showed. She was always excited at her inventions (like the dollhouse), and had a happy, positive outlook. That’s a lesson we should all keep in mind, especially these days with social media taking over our lives.
2. You’re Never Too Old To Try New Things
Speaking of Phoebe, remember The One With All The Candy? In this episode, Phoebe admitted that she never owned a bike and didn’t know how to ride one. Ross, being the good friend that he is, then buys her a pretty, pink bike so she can have an experience that most people had when they were just kids. Phoebe, at the age of 30, happily put her helmet on and didn’t care what she looked like or what people thought of her. Though she was reluctant at times, she at least gave it a try, showing us that it really is never too late to try the things you’ve always wanted to try.
1. Laughter Is The Best Medicine
You could always count on Friends to make you laugh (in fact, if you want a list of some of the funniest episodes, check this out). If you paid attention, you’ll realize that all the characters went through some pretty tough times (Ross and all his divorces, Phoebe’s homelessness, Chandler’s broken family, Monica’s inability to have babies of her own, Rachel leaving her fiancée and working at a dead-end job for years, and Joey’s struggle to become a well-known actor). Yet, they still found a way to laugh at themselves (and sometimes at each other). Friends taught us that sometimes we don’t need to take everything so seriously, things will eventually work out and you’ll be happy as long as you look at things with a positive perspective.