Do you remember when you were a kid and you made a new best friend every school year? I mean, sure you had mainstay friends, the ones that were sometimes in your class but sometimes weren’t and so you’d fall in and out of friendship with them but they were always kind of around. When you’re a kid you move through friendships quickly and easily; it was all whose desk is next to yours, who likes playing on the monkey bars, who’s on your coach-pitch team?
Then you get a little older, and maybe there are some longer term friends. I guess that would depend how and where you grew up. I had the lucky fortune of coming of age in a small town where of my 60 person graduating class probably 20 of us went to kindergarten together.
Still a lot of friendships were proximity. I don’t want that to sound negative, I had the best time on my volleyball team, or laughing with the girl who sat next to me in math – mostly because if we weren’t laughing we would be crying – whoever invented the pure math 30 curriculum is cruel – but they seemed simpler. Friends would come and go and your friendships were based on what was fun and what was next. You were more concerned about when the most recent Big Shiny Tunes album than if you needed to start thinking about post-secondary options.
Fast forward 10+ years, move a few new cities, get some great new friends and then watch as you all move to a few new cities again.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship, and what it means to be a good friend.
After moving I needed to make new friends. New. Adult. Friends.
This seemed like a nearly impossible feat because where are people and how do you meet them? The answer – if you are lucky (and once again I was drawing aces) -is that you make a friend and then you becoming friends with their friends, and bloom.
This was great. I met people. And lots of people. And people are great, but you need more than acquaintances and drinking buddies. You need real, honest friendship. As a young adult I find myself in the in-between stage of long since heading off from my parents, capable of a lot of important decisions, while simultaneously fighting the urge to let adulthood take over. (Though I do get excited when Cheerios are on sale, who says no to healthy fibre?!)
These days I rely on my friends to be my sounding board, my advice panel, and my sanity when times are tough. I’ve started to really appreciate the people who stop to ask how my day is and really care, the ones who show true interest, and the ones I can trust will come through when I really need them. I know it’s easy to get caught up in our own goings on, I’m guilty of it, and it is absurd to think that your friends owe you all their time, but it’s worth watching out for the ones who watch out for you.
Friendship however, is not a seamless endeavour. I’ve recently realized just how delicate and fraught friendships can be. I think often we equate working at relationships with romantic endeavours – we all know love ain’t easy (finger wag) – it takes work – you need to communicate, but I think we’ve forgotten to tell ourselves that about friendship. If friendship can be just as close – minus the nookie nookie – as a romance, then it’s going to take work, honesty, and both sides really wanting to be there for the other.
It wasn’t something that I fully appreciated until recently. I’ve seen how distance, and honestly just long term friendship, can be tough. As we start to have friends for 10 or 20 plus years it’s important to remember that sometimes shit is going to get rough. Sometimes one person will need to lean on the other more, sometimes you’ll need space. But both sides need to want to be there. If you’re expecting someone to be a sounding board for you, you better be willing to be one for them.
There are lots of different kinds of friends. You don’t go around telling your deepest darkest gushy bits to everyone you meet – people will get weird about it, don’t do it. We all need the acquaintances, the drinking buddies, yearly coffee date friends, and we can’t expect our friends to be our everything all the time, you’ve got to stand on your own two feet when you can. But, if you want to be a great friend, a long lasting friend, you need to put as much work into it as you’re asking in return.
I guess I just never really thought about friendship like that, but looking at it this way, at least for me, it seem easier.