Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Curiousness of Friendship

Interpersonal personal relationships have always fascinated me. Probably because human thoughts, actions and interactions are something I've always been interested in - after all I was a psychology minor. The way people relate, or don't, the things that bring them together or push them apart is truly a mystery sometimes. Ever know two people that are close friends and you can't figure out for the life of you why? Ever have a good friend that at first meeting you'd never think you'd get along with? I'd venture to guess we've all experienced both. 

Before I write anything else I want to be very clear about one point - I absolutely did not write this post to be negative about anyone or point out any of my friends' short-comings. I know I'm the type that when I read a post like this, I always wonder "oh no, is that me? I hope I didn't do something wrong!". I wrote it to truly ponder aloud about friendship and to celebrate those that have been great friends either throughout my life, recently, or both. 

Over the years I've had friends come and go. I've met friends in some unique situations. For instance, I met one of my best friends standing in line at the airport waiting to board a flight. I've had friends that I've known since I was 7, who have been through everything with me and who I'm pretty confident will still be my friend when I'm 70. Recently, I've noticed a unique trend - reconnecting with people I was friends with as a kid who I may have lost touch with (or not been in touch with as often) who have now become good friends again. Thank you for that Facebook. Truly. One of the advantages of social media is that you get to connect with those you might otherwise not be able to and realize again why you were friends all those years ago. 

So what makes a good friend? Why do we stay friends with some people for years and years, and others seem to vanish from our lives over night? Why can we not see someone for years and then when we have the chance, it's like we haven't missed a day?  To me, it comes down to a few things. First is effort. I make a major effort for my friends. If they need me to run over in the middle of the night in my pajamas because they're going through a crisis, I'll do it (provided they're within running/driving distance and I'd hop on the next flight/train if I had to). If they need a good laugh, I'm happy to do something ridiculous and let them laugh at my expense. I appreciate those who do the same. I realize not everyone has the same amount of time to give and I don't expect it. But those that will lend an ear, help make me smile in a down time, laugh with me, make an effort to see me, reach out first so I don't always have to, those are the friends I value and keep.

The ability to be selfless is an amazing quality. My best friends will listen to me talk, gripe, ramble when I need to even when they've had an awful day (thank you). They'll answer the phone in the middle of the night, they'll stay up late or wake up early just to give me an ear. I understand that everyone needs to be selfish at some times. But it has to be a two way street. Those that understand this, I value tremendously. It can't be all about me, and it can't be all about you. It's not always even, but it should even out somewhere along the way. I walked away from a very close friend because of their selfishness. Truly, the ability to put the other person first sometimes is a must. Along with this goes compromise. People rarely see eye to eye on everything. I respect people that can compromise. They are willing to see my point of view and meet in the middle. I expect myself to do the same and would be ashamed of myself if I didn't. 

Finally, I think everyone needs to be needed. I have friends that I know I can go to when I need to talk, but that don't come to me. Or maybe they do, but only when no one else is available. I consider them friends, kind of, but not my closest friends. I call them happy hour friends. If you can't lean on me, how close are we really? I can have a beer or watch a ball game with total strangers at the bar next door (and do, on probably a weekly basis). I love light-heartedness and fun, but I need that intimacy of personal sharing to feel really close to someone. It doesn't have to be something terrible, it could be something great, or just something you need to discuss. If the only things I know about you I could find out on your Facebook status or twitter update, we're really not that special to each other.  I think of everything, this is the one absolute for me in a friendship. I really can't have a true friendship without it. 

I'm curious, what do other people need and hope for in their friendships? What makes people come together and drift apart - and sometimes come back together again. How can people be best friends one day and not speak the next (other than something obviously traumatic like a betrayal)? How can people not know each other one month and be inseparable the next?  To me, it's an ever-changing dynamic. There are some people that I can imagine, and hope, will be with me for life. They are my unofficial family. They've paid their dues, so to speak, and I love them for it. There are those that I've recently gotten close to that I can see joining that group. I don't necessarily believe that people come in and go out of your life for a reason. I believe that if both sides actively participate, they don't have to leave your life. For my part, I try my best and hope that I'm the friend that my friends want and need. I'll end this post with a big thank you, to all my friends - old, new and old-new. I hope that 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 years from now (if I'm still kicking) that I can happily still call you my friends. 

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