20 years ago today, Friends premiered. I watched the first episode the first time it aired. I was 9 years old.

Growing up, my family were faithful TV Guide subscribers, and I actually read it every week. In the Fall of 1994, while flipping through the magazine and planning out my primetime schedule for the impending season, I saw this one sheet and decided that this was a show I needed to check out.

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I mean it was sandwiched between two of my favorite shows, Seinfeld and Mad About You, so it had a lot of promise! (It’s really not a big surprise that I find myself working in television now, is it? Also? I’m totally aware that I was a strange and precocious kid.) I watched it, faithfully, even though my parents thought it was terrible. Then, magically, it became not-so-terrible…roughly around the same time Chandler and Joey retired their bowl cuts.

The show went off the air my freshman year of college.  I literally grew up with it. I became the rough draft of who I am now in part because of these characters that lived in an LA-skewed version of New York City. I fake-laughed at jokes I didn’t understand the first run, but would learn the meaning of in syndication. I thought being single was fine so long as you had five good-looking, co-dependent pals to drink coffee with. I romanticized the idea of falling in love with a best friend. And I learned that while you may know? They may not know you know they know you know.

I’m older now than the friends were in those first few seasons, and that’s kind of terrifying. I understand the lyrics to that theme song more than I ever thought I would. But y’know what? I’m living in a big city. My best friend lives in the apartment next door to me. I have a flock of people that I care immensely for, and vice versa. While I may be stuck in second gear (and still looking for my lobster), I’m getting by and doing pretty damn well.

…and I’m drinking a lot of coffee.

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