On the Pursuit of Friendship

Thursday, June 04, 2015

I wrote this on a plane. I think that detail is significant because a plane is a place where you feel surrounded. Surrounded by people, stories, and endless chatter traveling from one ear to another, from one mind to many. It is in places like this, where despite the fact that you are enclosed by a crowd of people, you are reminded that you are alone. And yet   there is an overwhelming comfort knowing that you are not alone in your loneliness.

       When I was younger, I always wanted a best friend. There was this immense need for it, really. I spent a lot of my days with my brother and my sister, who often made fun of me as I was the easy target (I still am!) I love my siblings, but growing up I wanted somebody to relate to, who would constantly be around me, who could have a marathon of slumber parties, who liked the same things I did, and someone who wanted adventure. In my young heart, I guess I just wanted someone to be there. And I was idealistic. I'd grown up religiously watching Rugrats and Rocket Power and all of the other 90s cartoons that chronicled the strength and power of friendship. I moved a lot and I guess for the beginning of my childhood I was jealous of the kids who had known each other since they were in diapers. I on the other hand, had to meet a new group of people every few years. While sometimes shy, my younger self was rather outgoing (I had the advantage of being known by the phenomenon of being a twin, which often made me seem cooler than I was in new social situations. "Oh you're new?" one would ask. "Yeah, but there's also another one of me," I might have replied. "Rad.") It wasn't making friends that was difficult, it was keeping them knowing that I would probably have to just make new ones in a year or two. I know people now that have maintained friendships for like 20 years, which is crazy considering they're not much older than that. And I've always wanted that. To be able to say "I learned how to ride bikes with you!" Or knowing some seriously obscure and random facts about someone like that when they were five their mom would only dress them in Tweety-inspired clothing based off their request (which by the way was me). But I don't have that. I'd make friends one year, then new ones the next.

       It wasn't until middle school that my family had established some kind of constancy. But there were other problems. I met and befriended a lot of mean girls in my day. Like the kind who photocopied diaries and gave the pages to friends or the kind who didn't include me in group activities or called me "weird," girls who made fun of the way I walk in a pigeon-toed manner, and girls who just aren't all that nice. It wasn't until high school where I met my first best friend. We spent so much time together, our mothers thought we were lesbians. It was that serious. We talked on the phone every day. We wrote each other notes in code, equipped with pictures and diagrams. She was there for me for my first real heartbreak. We were what I had always wanted   we were best friends. For six or so years, I could say that with no doubt. I was wholly invested in this one person's life. And she shaped me into the person I am today. But one day, we just faded. We called each other less. Asked to hangout less often. Somehow we didn't like the same music anymore or want to do the same things. I guess what happened was what happens to everyone, we grew up. And apart. For years after, I felt incredibly alone. Even in relationships. There's just something missing when you have someone there for you that is completely detached from romantic feelings. Today, my boyfriend is one of best friends, but apart from your significant other who do you seek advice from? Validation? There has to be some kind of separation in your personal life.

       As an adult where do you make friends? Honestly, I've always wanted to know. As a kid, you're put into so many different situations that foster friendships from playdates to classroom settings. And when you're young you're way less concerned what their stance is on political matters and more concerned with whether or not they like going to the pool. You become friends out of convenience. As adults, we often have a certain set of expectations out of the people you choose to surround yourself with. And the people in your life become so compartmentalized. Work friends. School friends. Cat lover friends. But rarely (or at least in my case) do they cross the threshold of becoming a full-fledged friend.

       Maybe this is what it really means to be an adult, to not be entirely defined by another person. To not credit just one person as to making you who you are. To have relationships with a variety of people who aren't exactly the same and who constantly challenge you in different aspects of life. I guess today I am made up of or partially influenced by the hundreds of people I've come into contact with throughout my life. Without one "best friend," maybe I've learned to accept all walks of life. And realize that people like my mother or sister or boyfriend have been there for me all along. And also, importantly, that I didn't need to be accepted by just one person in order to accept myself. After all these years, I think I'm becoming more comfortable with that fact and also that maybe I just haven't paid enough attention to those that are already around me in both my jobs and school. I am more surrounded by wonderful people than I have ever been. There are some lovely humans that I admit I sometimes overlook in the quest to find just that one. So maybe I should instead appreciate all those who are there for me now   and all the amazing people I have met along the way.
       As for meeting new people, maybe that has a lot to do with doing the things you love to do. Maybe I should go to more poetry open mics or make more films. Do more projects that I enjoy. I think that's the natural way to go out and meet people. Do more of the things you love and you'll meet people who love it too.

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