This is a blog topic that I have been researching, writing, and editing for weeks. I spoke to a variety of people on the subject of friendships, and there were a lot of mixed emotions shared. For now, what I can definitively say is that writing about friendships is a delicate subject.
If you are a loyal, sensitive, compassionate, and empathetic person, you will probably really relate to this post. I have found that living in my little part of the modern world where technology has transformed friendship management (and not always in a good way), it is sometimes a challenge to process thoughts regarding friends and acquaintances – and there’s a big difference between the two.
As the years have gone on, I have found it quite interesting how my life became less about how many friends I had accumulated but rather on the quality of the friendships that I had. I think this comes with maturity and also a self-awareness; I realize how I would like to spend the limited free time that I have and who I would like to spend it with.
Sometimes it is just best to get to the point where you accept that people are strange and even sometimes selfish and you don’t even attempt to figure them or their actions out anymore. Sometimes there are no good explanations for things. It’s a freeing realization to say the least. When you detach from expectations and things you cannot control, it helps to eliminate disappointment.
However, if you subscribe to the idea that we are all one, then compassion, acceptance, and peace can be combined with the latter approach.
Recently, I asked myself: “Who in your life elevates you and brings out your happiness and sense of humor?”
When I sat down and actually wrote this list out, it was shockingly short. I mean – shoooooorrrrrrt.
Once I realized how small my list was, (I mean – smaaaaaaallllll),
I realized that this was okay, and I shouldn’t place judgement on it.
When I got to thinking about each of those people I had written down on my notebook paper, I realized that they are all special in their own way. The one thing they did have in common, though, was that they all had a great sense of humor and a fun way of keeping things light and dealing with life’s challenges like champions.
The next thing I did was I wrote down all of the attributes that I appreciated about each person. This helped me to conceptualize what qualities I value in others.
I then thought about my actions and behaviors toward these people who supposedly make me so happy. I looked inward and asked myself: “What kind of a friend am I to them? Am I reciprocating their kindness, generosity and happiness? Or, am I wasting time on other relationships that may be cluttering my life and weighing me down?”
It was a little of both.
The Tale of Friendships Past
I know many people who have remained best friends with the people who they grew up with. I unfortunately did not develop close friendships at a young age. I was always nice to everyone, but I never really fit in with any particular group. I also spent a lot of time alone.
My Mom once told me a story of when I was in elementary school, and my class was outside at the playground. My Dad had come to pick me up from school and he was disheartened to see that I was sitting alone in the sand underneath a slide watching all of the other children playing together. I was not crying or upset, I just was sitting there, alone.
Sure I had friends that I spent time with here and there outside of school, but they were usually just people to pass the time with. They did not grow into lifelong friends.
In high school, that is when I started to develop a couple of closer connections but that was the extent of it. I was still nice to everyone, but I never fit into one cluster or clique. I kind of feel my teen years were more enriching because of that; I could see others as individuals rather than as labels or groupings. This is something that I have carried into adulthood.
I played on the high school soccer team, but I did not development any close friendships with any of my teammates; the same goes for student council, and French club, and band. It seemed that everyone else in these groups were getting to know each other outside of school. I typically served in leadership roles and was always willing to lend an ear to hear others. I did spend time with friends outside of school (moreso when I got my driver’s license), but overall, I was only truly myself around two friends who I met during the beginning of my freshman year of high school.
It was surprising to me when I was voted prom queen during my senior year before graduation. It was a fun experience, and I was grateful. I was surrounded by wonderful people and lots of friends, or at least people I was friendly with. However, there weren’t many people I was truly close with. I would talk to anyone and everyone and I respected everyone, but I was never part of a specific grouping, as is the case with most high school students.
Then came college and life-after college, marriage, and now at age 30 I have experienced a whole lot of happiness and even some very real disappointments when it came to friendships – even including the friends I held nearest to my heart. In retrospect, having those experiences (especially the hurtful ones) was character-building and enlightening for me.
I have never really felt like I “fit in” fully in any environment or with any group of people. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that this is okay and lots of others have felt the same in their own right. I have also grown to love time to myself for reading, writing, and reflection.
Through it all, I have basically taken away five truths:
1. Friendship is a two-way street. It is important for us to reflect on how our friends treat us, but also how we treat them. Do you reach out to your friends just to say hello, do you send cards, or happy texts? Or do you only reach out when you are having a personal problem?
2. Quality is better than quantity. It’s better to have two wonderful people in your life than 100 crappy ones.
3. Evolving and growing apart from past friendships is okay. It’s a normal part of life. And if you’re spiritual, like me, you might even believe in soul contracts where people were meant to pop into your life at a specific time for a deeper reason along your unfolding path. It’s okay if they are not meant to be there from start to finish, just as you might not be there for their full story.
4. Sometimes it’s the things that people don’t say or don’t do, that hurt the most.
5. Animals are the greatest friends. They are so innocent and loyal, they never judge, and they teach us unconditional love. They truly are gifts from God.
Sifting through the Clutter
So with the large population pool of possible people to get to know, how does one decide how to branch out and who to invite in? One thing I recommend is being mindful of the clutter and understanding the qualities that you value in friendships.
Using technology and social media to maintain relationships is okay, but it’s never a replacement for a phone call, a dinner, a game night, a road trip, or simply a face-to-face conversation filled with laughter.
I would also recommend working on being your most authentic, brightest self in all areas of your life, so you can attract like-minded people. Friendships are like gardens, you have to cultivate them, care for them with love, and see how they grow.