Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thoughts on making friends

For me, making friends has always been hard. I'm told that as a child I leaned toward the antisocial, opting to get out of the sandbox instead of playing with the other kids. I remember being fairly solitary, preferring my own company and imagination to that of others. They simply didn't follow my rules, didn't play the way I wanted to play, and as I think back I seem to remember that most of my interactions with other children ended up with one of us getting proverbially bulldozed. It seems that I decided at an early age that someone had to "lose" and it wasn't going to be me. And on the few occasions I met a stronger personality than myself, and I was the one who "lost" and ended up playing by someone else's rules, I wasn't very happy at all.

I remember having one friend during my homeschool years. She lived down the street and I liked to go to her house and play with her and her toys. She's one of the few people I remember actually wanting to be around as a child, probably because I admired her. She was in softball, and public school. She had a bike, and more barbies than me, and she knew what her favorite color was. She went on interesting trips with her family, and had family members who lived in interesting places. I thought she was really cool, so I latched on to her and for a little while we were pretty close.

Through the years of public school I had one friend or another who I felt close to, sometimes more than one at a time, but I always felt that there was some distance between us. Making friends in the first place wasn't easy for me, and so I ended up trying to become whatever the person who was willing to be my friend was like, and that caused problems of their own. But none of my friendships really bridged that distance and lasted. In fourth and fifth grade it was Raven, but we were different, and I don't think her mom or her other friends liked me, and so no matter how desperately I wanted to be her friend we ended up drifting apart. We talked through the rest of our school years, but not much.

In sixth grade it was a girl named Amanda, but we fought over something I don't even remember and then she moved away. Seventh and eighth grade brought me Molly, Melinda, and Josh, and we became our own little group, but we only really talked while we were at school. The closeness was missing. In eight grade I met Bethany, and we stayed friends for a while. In ninth grade it was another Amanda, and a girl named Alyssa, both of whom I admired for one reason or another. But then Amanda and I grew in different directions and Alyssa went through a hard time at the same time I did and we exploded into hostility toward each other.

The commonality is that I admired all of the people I tried to befriend. Maybe admired isn't the right word, envied is more accurate. They had freedoms I didn't, opportunities I didn't, and I wanted to have what they had. I understood, subconsciously, that you should surround yourself with people who have something you want. However, I didn't understand how to be a friend. I was never very good at it. I tended to overburden the people I befriended, to put too much of my woes on their shoulders and demand too much of their attention without giving much back. I still talk to some of them, but not very often. When you don't form deep, mutual bonds and attachments with someone, it gets really easy to just burn your bridges. When I left Indiana to the tune of so many naysayers, that's exactly what I did. I reacted to my friends' concern for me and attempts to advise me by severing the fragile ties and walking away, convinced that if they couldn't see how my choice was better, I didn't need them anyway.

I did have other friends, people I formed close bonds with, like my first ex and Ryan, who died about a year ago. But those were ties that I didn't have to put a whole lot of effort into maintaining. We were internet buddies, for the most part.

I do blame myself for the loss of so many friendships, for the failure to connect properly. If I could go back to my high school years knowing all the things that I know now about people and connecting and developing relationships, I'd have a lot more fun and so would my friends.

As an adult, I'm better at listening. I'm better at sensing true connections and - especially after all the reading I've done - I'm better at connecting in the first place. I have a better idea of when it's okay to lean on someone else, and when you just need to be an uplifting person and let them know that you care. But it's still hard for me. With so much natural tendency toward isolation, with so much history of friendships gone bad, I'm nervous about making friends now. It means so much more than sleepovers and ice cream now, and if I'm completely honest with myself I know that scares me. However, I also know that it's important. God created us to fundamentally need other people.

That doesn't mean it's any easier. It certainly isn't easy to remember to call someone, to remember that them not initiating all the time doesn't mean they don't like you. It's hard to remember the details that make them see that they're important to you without getting frustrated when they start to tell the same story for the hundredth time. It's hard to remember to reach out across the gap of busy, mismatched schedules and make time for them. But, I'm finding that it's worth it.

Relationships grow at different rates, but most of them grow slowly. You have to get to know one another, learn to trust one another, and develop common experiences that you can draw on for the materials to build that bridge. Close friendships are like a safe haven when life gets crazy, a place you can turn to, take a minute, and just relax. But they take time to get that way, like a castle takes years to build.

I'm glad that I've learned what I've learned about connecting, and relationships, and people. I'm glad that I've learned it now, when I'm just 20, instead of having to learn it when I'm 35 or 60...or worse, never learning at all. Because I've learned these things now, I can start developing friendships. And I must say, even in the beginning of the relationship, there's little in the world that is relaxing and refreshing the same way having a long conversation over a cup of coffee can be.

So here's to you. May your friendships flourish this year, growing strong bonds that will stand the test of time and trials. May you find a companion you can trust, someone you can relax with, and may you be that for them as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment