09 February 2014

On friendship


I'm probably not a very good friend.

At least, that's often what I think, when I measure myself and how I approach friendships against how I imagine the average female my age does. Which way is that? Well, I probably don't ask the right questions, or say the right thing. And I've definitely been told I don't stay in contact enough. Basically, I don't think I carry out, r subscribe to, a lot of the usual friendship rituals, especially those expected of a typical female friendship.

The honest truth? This probably isn't going to change despite how much I try or want it. It's a fundamental building block of who I am as a person, and as a friend. Hell, my approaches to many types of relationships probably share a significant degree of similarity.

My approach? The simplest way to describe it — whilst also stating that none of this is conscious thought — is that I don't put all my eggs in one basket and I don't show my hand. What do I mean by that? Well, since high school, I've always had several friendship groups. Some crossover, some don't. But within those groups, only a select few know me for who I really am.

Why? Let me first of all say, I'm not trying to incite the world's saddest violin concerto on the world's smallest set of strings. This is just the truth; cold, hard facts. Being bullied by your 'best friend' at age 13 affects you. If you can't trust your 'best friend', who can you trust? So, I suppose I thought having several friendship groups would work out better in the long run.

And has it? Well, yes and no.

Let's get the negative out of the way first. This is bad because...? I would hope it's obvious; I often struggle to stay in contact with the sheer number of acquaintances I've made, and keeping my cards so close to my chest often results in few of them really understanding who I am, and why I am who I am. And because I don't measure up to their expectations, it hurts their feelings and/or they no longer consider me a friend. Whilst it has happened, they don't tend to contact me and say 'Hey look, you've barely been in touch. I don't think we can be friends any more.'. They just stop sever contact, or stop replying. You don't get a chance to say 'Oh I'm sorry, I just hadn't noticed how much of a crappy friend I was being. I'll change.' Mind you, if they did, I'm not sure I'd be too impressed if it was because they had unrealistic expectations of the commitment two people should make to a friendship.

Conversely, it's good because...? Well, mostly because meeting and making new friends is pretty awesome; it opens a world of possibility. Knowing friends all over the world can be great in itself. But finally, those friends I have made who operate in a similar fashion — i.e. not needing to talk all the time to consider us friends — have remained just that for years; my friend, and I theirs. In most cases, both of us know they could call on the other if they were in a jam. Just this week, I met up with two people (separately) that I have known for ten years, and we just pick up where we left off. There are people I've known for longer; 12 years, 15 years; and shorter periods of time; 7 years, 4 years, etc., but because their approach echoes my own, I'm pretty confident that as the milestones roll past, we will continue to be friends. That is certainly my hope, at least.

So, whilst I started this post with 'I'm probably not a very good friend', I don't believe that. In fact, I'm going to blow my own trumpet and say I'm a pretty frickin' awesome friend; I am fiercely loyal, unreservedly frank whilst non-judgemental, and often very forgiving (up to a point, of course). Maybe it's just that some people have a different level of expectation for friendship.

Jen
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Image credit: arjun vCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

4 comments:

  1. I can somewhat relate to this so much, Jen. I usually do try to stay in touch with people, but like you have a lot of friends in several friendship groups and I just don't have the time to be in touch with everyone every single day (although I wish I did). But the good thing is: with a lot of people, it's more about the connection that I feel with them than the actual amount of time I spent with them (in person or via other forms of communication) because I know we'll always pick up just where we left off last time.
    I think the older we get, the more important it is to know we have people that we can count on - regardless how often we hear from each other. Life gets busy for everyone but that doesn't mean we're bad friends just because we don't keep in touch ALL the time.

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    1. It's tough, isn't it? Everyone is busy, and everyone does want to stay in touch but time just runs away with you and you think, I'll get in touch tomorrow. That is good that you have similar friendships; that the time you spend together (whether in real life or just communicating) does not determine your friendship.

      Lovely comment San, thanks for stopping by. : )

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  2. I relate to this so much, and I'd never really related the way I behave as a friend to the fact I was bullied at school. But yeah, makes perfect sense of why I really don't like to get too close to people. So many friends, including two very close ones, have been lost because I don't fit their idea of what a friend should be (basically, because I didn't like to share too much of the 'real' stuff with them). Like you, my closest friends now are ones who are more similar to me.

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    1. Yeah, it took me a couple of years before I picked up on my 'friendship style' and longer for me to realise why. I keep people at arm's length as well. It's so sad to lose friends : ( but you have to be who you are and if they can't deal with it then perhaps they weren't really long haul friends? *shrug*

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