I feel like over the past few years my idea of what friendship is has changed dramatically. From the moment we enter school to the moment we graduate, we have these “situational friends” meaning we make our friends because of the similar environment we share. But then, things happen. You move. Your interests change. You graduate. You get a job. And then all of the situational friends you didn’t realize were situational seem to disappear.
It’s a tough thing to handle. Growing apart, moving in different directions, and losing friends along the way can feel like a break-up. After you finish High School a lot of the people you used to talk to on a daily basis you don’t even see anymore. And then going into college, or a career, you find yourself moving farther and farther away from all of the familiar faces.
In my brief time spent post-school I’ve learned a few key things about transitioning from situational friends to creating life-long friendships which has helped me cope with losing friends and working to keep the ones that matter.
1. You Pick Your Own Friends
It’s a very odd concept but one day I realized that I can actually pick and choose who my friends are. For some reason this epiphany just blew my mind. You can decide to end friendships. You can decide to meet new people and foster new relationships. The decision is up to you.
2. You Are Who You Surround Yourself With
That leads me to say that who you decide will be in your friendship circle is very important. Do you ever notice when you start spending a lot of time with someone you begin to pick-up their mannerisms and use their catch phrases? That’s because the more time you spend with someone the more they affect you. So be sure to pick your friends wisely. Surround yourself with people that let you be yourself, embrace your weirdness, make you laugh and feel at ease, call you out on things when it’s necessary, and encourage you to reach your dreams. If they make you a better person, they are worth maintaining a friendship with.
There is definitely a flip-side to this. If you have a friend or even a group of friends who constantly pressure you to do things you aren’t comfortable with then just end it. It’s really not worth putting your well-being in jeopardy for people who you don’t have anything in common with and aren’t feeling safe and secure around. Just rip the bandaid off. You’ll soon find friends who are way better for you and influence you in a good way.
3. Your Social Circle Will Get Smaller
This is inevitable. As you get older, the number of your close friends really begins to shrink. But I’d say that can be a good thing. Don’t fret about the number of OK friends you have, but instead focus on the QUALITY of great friends you need who will stand by you through hard times.
4. Let Your Friends Have Other Friends
This lesson was a hard one to learn. In High School I hated it when my best friends would make new friends. I felt like I was being replaced and abandoned. I would get so jealous hearing a friend talk about an other friend and instead want to have my friend all to myself. But I think that’s just a part of being young and needing to grow. You need to let your friends have other friends. In fact, I think it’s great to have different groups of friends which may not even interact with each other. One person can not satisfy all of your needs. It’s healthy to go to different people for different things. So let your friends make other friends and be glad for them when they do!
5. You Need to Let Go of the Toxic Ones
Recently, I went through a very difficult confrontation (let’s face it, it was a huge fight) with a friend I’ve had for over 8 years. We became close friends during High School but during college the dynamic of our relationship changed and I began to see her true colors.
I went through a very difficult time during college because of my transfer and depression (which you can read about here). And during that time I opened up to my friend on how I felt neglected by her since she was the only person I knew at this University and yet was never invited by her to hang out or meet new people being that I was completely new. I was practically crying as I vented to her and she said she would try to help me. That was the beginning.
But nothing changed. After college I went through an extremely tough time of being unemployed and just feeling like a plain failure. I even moved to Dallas for one week for an unpaid internship but then things became disastrous, didn’t work out, and I moved back to Austin. I didn’t get a call from her to meet-up or talk even after I told her what had happened.
Still nothing changed. When my friend started working overseas I still tried to keep the friendship alive. But I was the only one who ever started the conversation. Texting her, messaging her on Facebook. I was the one who initiated all of it.
Everything changed for me. When she came back to visit almost a year after living in separate countries I felt like I didn’t even know this person anymore. This “friend” who consistently was never there for me when I needed her. This “friend” who never initiated conversations, hang outs, or anything to keep the friendship alive. It got to a point where I just felt terrible about myself. I kept on thinking “What’s so terrible about me that she can’t care enough to care.” Basically, in a nutshell I was constantly giving and she wasn’t giving anything.
I had to cut it off. After her telling me “This is just the way I am.” I understood she wasn’t willing to try and become a better friend. When you have a friend who isn’t giving any effort to maintain a relationship then it isn’t worth keeping. No matter how sad it is, it always takes two people’s effort and consistency to keep a friendship going. I’d say that’s true in any relationship really. Sad but true. If you have a toxic friend, and that friend will probably come to mind instantly, it’s time to remove them from your life.
6. Forgive and Help Each Other Grow
On one hand, there will be friends in your life who will consistently not be there for you for the entire duration of your entire friendship. But on the other hand, sometimes people just make mistakes. Someone told me that when you marry someone you marry their entire lifetime-NOT just who they are at the time you married them. I think it’s the same with friendships.
When you first meet someone, at times it can be awkward. There will be misunderstandings and miscommunications. You will go through fights. You will hurt each other, unintentionally or even intentionally.
But as both of you spend more time with each other and grow up together you gain a better love and understanding for each other. You can choose to grow from your fights. You can choose to forgive and forget and help each other become better people along the way. For the ones who really try and really matter to you, it’s important that you try just as hard to maintain that relationship.
7. It’s Good to be a Good Friend
I’m ashamed to admit it but during my freshman year of college I was a really bad friend to my roommate. Everything I could do wrong, I did wrong. I got jealous of her making other friends. I gossiped about her to our other friends. I started to push her away. I was just plain mean and immature towards our friendship. It took some time for me to own up to it but eventually I apologized to her about how badly I treated her. It was my fault the friendship got tarnished and could never really recover again.
But because of that experience I learned how important it is to be a good friend to someone. It is definitely a learning process but little by little I am trying to become more aware that I can’t keep looking at the faults of others and have to focus on becoming a better person myself.
In a friendship it is good to be kind. It is good to be encouraging. And as good as it is to offer up advice, it is better to listen. To be that shoulder for someone to cry on. To be gentle when you need to be gentle and bold when you need to be bold. Lastly, it is important to take a trusted friend’s criticism and rather than having it offend you, allowing it empower you to become better. The ones who care enough to say something are the ones who actually care about you.
8. Don’t Always Be the One to Initiate Hang-Out Time
I’ve learned that it isn’t ok for one person in a friendship to always be the one to make plans and do all of the work. There needs to be some balance. You can’t always carry the weight of the responsibility on your own. That can become burdensome and lead you to feel bitter towards that person. Every once in a while I think it’s good to let go of the reins a bit. The ones who want to spend time with you will.
9. Communication, Communication, Communication, oh and Communication
If you’re like me it can be easy to bottle things up and then one day explode! And I mean exploooode! But that is in no way is healthy for you or any person who comes in contact with you. This may take some practice but instead of taking the passive aggressive or bottle-it-up approach, the next time you encounter a problem talk about it on the spot. You don’t have to be angry about it, but in a constructive way reveal how you are feeling.
10. Keep Up with the Ones You Care About and the Ones that Care About You
If two best friends never make contact with each other, will the friendship still last? Honestly, I don’t believe it will. Friendship is hard work. Like any relationship it takes a lot of effort, a lot of love, a lot of forgiveness, and a lot practice. But having great friends surrounding you is truly a blessing. Humans weren’t meant to spend their lives as separate beings. We live in families, neighborhoods, schools, cities, the world, filled with people, people, people! We need each other. We need to be supported, and to support others. We need to lift each other up and what greater way to do that than through friendship?
I hoped you enjoyed this rather different and extremely long blog post. Lately, friendship is a topic I really wanted to share about. If you’d like to read a similar style post on the topic of race click here. Until next time!