Friendship is a funny thing.
Why do some people stay in friendships when other people abandon friendships? Why do some people hold back when it is offered to them? Why do some people retreat to unhealthy friendships? Why do we put more work into some friendships and less into others? All questions that point out success and failure in friendships.
Or, is there such a thing as success and failure in relationships? Or is all about change?
I guess, I am one of those people who stay in friendships no matter the highs and lows. I love the history of a friendship. The roots and beginnings of a friendship are important to me when I reflect. I love to think about why people come together and build a relationship. Friendship's beginnings have been very different to me than any romantic or family relationships that I have had in my life. With romantic relationships, I was able to see every step of the process, and family relationships have always been. But with friendships, it evolves without a person really realizing it.
It took me many years to realize that I was able to CHOOSE my friends. I thought they just happened and were handed to me through connections and associations.
When I was seventeen years old, I realized that life doesn’t just happen to me; I was able to choose my path. I had the same group of friends for many years and they were terrific. In that group of friends, I had made some meaningful memories. I had made some kindred spirit relationships. Yet, I was growing restless with the familiarity of these relationships. As a circle of friends, we had experienced camp, school, and all things adolescence together. I craved some independence and some risk taking in relationships.
An opportunity shown itself for new relationships in a week at Girls’ State. Girls’ State is a chance for young woman from all around the state to gather at a university to learn about politics, government, and leadership. I did not know a single person and that had NEVER happened to me before. I always knew someone or had some connection that I could bring with me. I was alone and it was nice. Even though I no longer have contact with any of the girls, I learned a lot about myself during that week at Girls’ State. I learned that I could make new friends and I could choose them. It seems kind of silly now that I am an adult, but I never thought about the process before that time in my life.
My thought process went something like this…and still does...
“Hmmm…he/she is interesting. I like what he/she is saying. I think I’ll hang out with him/her and see what I think. I hope he/she likes me too.”
That same way of thinking still holds true for my friendship building. I try to put myself in new situations where I meet people. I can recall instances when I might meet someone new. I remember the first day of my senior year of high school when I decided that I wanted to be Amy’s friend. She fit the bill for me. She was interesting, smart, and funny. It was only later that I realized that she was more than that. Many summers later, I met another kindred spirit, Rachel. She was in a writing group with me and she was unique, smart, and compassionate. Again, so much more than these simple descriptions. Even though I started out with a drive to develop relationships with these people, they had a reciprocal spirit of friendship. They accepted my friendship.
Usually, I can decide instantly if they are a person that I would like to be friends. Sometimes, these new friendships grow slowly and some are a whirlwind. It takes very little to be my friend(even though I have some friends who might disagree with this). A few interests and laughs in common and there it is.
The older I get, the more I look at friendships with two faces. My first face wants to keep friendships just the way the have always been…no change, just stay the same. The other face says to make new friends, keep the old. The second face depends of old friends to change, but cherish the old memories.
So, even though I embrace new friendships and look for opportunities to find them, I consider old friends sacred.
But, as one of my favorite Indigo Girls’ lyric say “We're better off for all that we let in”.